History of Truman’s Assessment Program
To read an extended history, visit Chapter II of the 2003 Assessment Almanac.
Assessment began at Truman State University (then known as Northeast Missouri State University) during the 1972-73 academic year when President Charles McClain invited graduating students to sit for comparative (senior) exams. Beginning in 1974, all graduating seniors sat for a senior exam in the major. The various majors used a variety of senior exams, administering nationally normed instruments whenever possible. A few majors developed local exams.
Value-added (pre-test/post-test) assessment in general education began in 1975 using the Sequential Test of Educational Progress (STEP) to assess incoming freshmen. In spring 1977, the University re-tested these students with the same exam to determine gains in student learning. Later, the ACT exam (taken as first-year students and sophomores) took the place of STEP. In the early 80’s, the University began using the College Outcomes Measurement Project (COMP), which was later replaced by the Academic Profile (AP).
In addition, Northeast began to collect attitudinal data using local instruments and adapting existing ones. These tests evaluated the University’s effect on the student’s progress and personal experiences. More detailed information about this period of assessment can be found in the 1984 North Central Nontraditional Self-Study and In Pursuit of Degrees with Integrity.
In Pursuit of Degrees with Integrity: A Value Added Approach to Undergraduate Assessment was published by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in 1984 after Northeast won the G. Theodore Mitau Award for Innovation and Excellence. This book outlines Northeast’s commitment to be accountable to its students and the public by assessing student performance and fostering improvement in student learning outcomes.
In 1984, the University expanded the program to include a variety of qualitative measures. Faculty were particularly interested in developing qualitative assessments for classroom practice, higher-order thinking skills and writing ability.
The Sophomore Writing Experience (SWE) evolved from a prior writing assessment that began in 1979 and from a 1984 mandate from Undergraduate Council making writing assessment a graduation requirement for all students.
In 1985, the Missouri state legislature designated Northeast as the state’s public liberal arts and sciences institution. As a result, the University reduced its undergraduate degree programs from 100 in 1985 to a low of 39 in 1993, concentrating resources on those programs that were fundamental to the new mission. At the same time, Northeast raised its admissions standards to “highly selective” and lowered the 21:1 student-to-faculty ratio to 16:1. To evaluate the impact of this new mission, the University continued to use the senior exams, value-added tests and attitudinal surveys, and change and update instruments as necessary.
In response to initiatives outlined in the Five-Year Planning Document, the University initiated portfolio assessment in 1988, expecting students to benefit from a retrospective look at their progress. The University envisioned several goals, including longitudinal assessment of the individual student’s growth and development of higher-order thinking skills.
The Advisory Committee for Assessment designed and implemented an interview project for juniors in 1992-93 to gather information beyond that gathered by the institutional surveys.
The University began using the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency (CAAP). The University divided each freshman class and administered the COMP to one half and the CAAP to the other half of the class as a pre-test. In the 1993-94 school year, the University shifted timing of the post-test, re-administering it after the completion of 60 semester hours. In particular, the University enhanced its early emphasis on multiple measures by including qualitative measures and encouraging self-assessment.
At this time, the assessment program gathered data from each of the approximately 6000 students on campus every year. The data were used at the institutional and divisional level, but the University intended for them to be useful to the individual student as well. The price paid for the information is more effort on the part of the faculty. This accelerated effort required the involvement of more individual faculty, which resulted in a higher number of faculty who have firsthand knowledge about who uses assessment data. The annual participation of 12 faculty members in the interview project, of 50 to 70 faculty members in the SWE, and over 50 faculty members in the portfolio project, increased and improved the use of assessment results to inform and improve classroom practice.
Truman’s assessment program saw many changes after the millennium.
In 2000, the freshman portion of the general education value-added CAAP and Academic Profile testing was suspended. Juniors continued taking the exams, and the Academic Profile instrument was updated and renamed the Measure of Academic Proficiency and Progress (MAPP) in 2006. Beginning in 2007, half of juniors took the CAPP modules for scientific and quantitative reasoning while the other half take a quantitative/scientific reasoning instrument designed by the assessment faculty and staff at James Madison University, Virginia. This was part of a larger NSF research grant hosted by JMU investigating the validity of use of their instrument over a wide range of institutions with varying mission statements. Included in the study were JMU Truman State University, Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI), St. Mary’s University (San Antonio, TX) and Virginia State University (Petersburg, VA). The junior test was discontinued in 2010.
In 2001, the Graduating Student Questionnaire (GSQ) was created and has been continously implemented for several years. Although the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) was founded in 1999, the students of Truman started taking it in 2001. In the spring of 2002, the Sophomore Writing Experience was discontinued. An interim writing assessment policy was piloted during the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 academic years. The permanent writing assessment program was piloted during the summer 2004. In 2003, the College Student Experience Questionnaire (CSEQ) replaced the Institutional Student Survey (ISS). The CSEQ is better suited to Truman’s mission than the ISS was. The CSEQ is administered the junior year. The same year Truman began to carry out the Cooperative Institutional Research Project (CIRP).
In 2005, the High Education Research Institute (HERI) Faculty Survey was used. Rather than students of the university this project was focused on surveying faculty and administration. It was decided to implement HERI Faculty Survey every three years. Furthermore, the university students, mainly freshmen and seniors, were involved in taking the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA). The CLA is divided into two tasks: an Analytical Writing Task and a Performance Task. Students take one of the two tasks, which measure critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and written communication.
During 2008, the University Assessment Committee was temporarily replaced by an Assessment Task Force, whose charge was to reevaluate the current institutional assessment plan. Led by the Dean of the School of Social and Cultural Studies, Dr. Doug Davenport, the Task Force worked for over a year on the process. Truman completed the second year as a partner institution with James Madison University, investigating the validity of the Quantitative Reasoning test and Scientific Reasoning (QRSR) test. Results from the second year of data analysis were remarkably similar to those from the first year, suggesting that the high performance of juniors was stable across time.
In fall 2009, the Assessment Committee was reconstituted with two students representing Student Senate, one faculty representative from each School, one Dean, two Associate Provosts, and the Provost. The Staff Survey didn’t appear in that year because it was last given in 2008. The College Portrait for Truman as part of the Voluntary System of Accountability continued under the direction of Dr. Marty Eisenberg, Associate Provost.
2010 – Present
In 2010, all faculty teaching a section during the term of administration are invited to complete the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE).
In early summer 2010, Truman State University applied to become part of the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education, coordinated by the Center for Inquiry at Wabash College. Thirty institutions will collaborate in the study, which is designed to strengthen the achievement of student outcomes through effective use assessment. As part of participation, representatives from the assessment committee attended a kickoff weekend in September 2010. Another team of students and faculty also attended a workshop in November designed to increase the level of student participation in making meaning of assessment data.
One significant change to university-wide assessments was the suspension of junior testing, starting in fall 2010. Though the junior tests had been a long-standing part of the assessment program, there was little evidence that they continued to be used for curricular improvement.
Other university-level assessments continued as before, including administration of the CIRP, CLA, interview project, senior tests, LAS portfolio, Graduating Senior questionnaire, and alumni survey.
Truman State is also currently participating in the Higher Learning Commission’s Assessment Academy. As a pioneer institutions in HLC’s new Pathways model for accreditation, Truman is focusing on improving critical thinking, leadership, and wellness in students.
As in previous years, the University Conference in February and the Strategic Planning and Assessment Workshop before the beginning of fall semester provide opportunities to examine and discuss assessment data.