Higher Learning Commission

2015 Collection of Papers

Ten Engaging Strategies for Assessment and Faculty Development Activities

Tami J. Eggleston and Christine M. Bahr

One of the hallmarks of a high-quality institution of higher education and an important criterion for accreditation is a commitment to continuous improvement. Student learning is the core of an institution’s work and, therefore, must be the central focus of an institution’s continuous improvement efforts. To ensure the quality of academic programs, institutions of higher learning must have in place “clearly stated goals for student learning and effective processes for assessment of student learning and achievement of learning goals” (Criteria and Core Component 4.B.1 in Higher Learning Commission 2013, 7).

For several years, McKendree University has been engaged in a continuous improvement process focused on the assessment of student learning. Launched in 2010, the Assessment 2.0 initiative is a seven-year commitment to revise the university’s student learning outcomes assessment system for undergraduate students. Although it took significant time to design the plan, of most importance are our efforts to implement it and sustain momentum across multiple years. Now in year five, we have found that we will not only complete the plan, but Assessment 2.0 has become an integral part of our academic culture and the seven-year cycle will perpetuate indefinitely.

The purpose of implementing Assessment 2.0 was to revise the student learning outcomes assessment plan for undergraduate students. The first step in the revision process was to identify the student learning outcomes. In 2010, faculty members identified four key tenets of the McKendree University mission statement: Responsible Citizenship, Engagement, Academic Excellence, and Lifelong Learning, referenced by the campus community as the acronym REAL. From the mission, they derived seven student learning outcomes.

In October 2010, several members of the McKendree community participated in the Higher Learning Commission’s (HLC) Workshop on the Assessment of Student Learning, and it was at that workshop that we conceptualized the first draft of the Assessment 2.0 initiative. We developed a structure whereby each year, for seven years, we would target one of the seven student learning outcomes. During the outcome planning and development year, we would determine performance indicators and select assessment tools for that particular outcome. In the following year, the implementation year, we would educate the campus community about the outcome and implement the assessment tools for the first time. During the implementation year, faculty development programs, including workshops, book study groups, and a “closing the loop” presentation sharing assessment data, would focus on that particular learning outcome. The following table shows the structure and timeline:

Table 1. Assessment 2.0 Plan

Year Planning and Development Implementation
2010–2011 Engagement  
2011–2012 Personal and Social Responsibility Engagement
2012–2013 Diverse Perspectives Personal and Social Responsibility
2013–2014 Effective Communication Diverse Perspectives
2014–2015 Inquiry and Problem Solving Effective Communication
2015–2016 Lifelong Learning Inquiry and Problem Solving
2016–2017 New Outcome or Repeat Cycle Lifelong Learning

Because the Assessment 2.0 plan is linked directly to our mission (REAL) and is focused on student learning, it permeates nearly everything that we do. For example, the general education curriculum is aligned with the mission and seven student learning outcomes. All faculty development and teaching workshops relate to one or more of the outcomes. Several awards and internal grants are linked to components of the REAL mission.

Our Assessment 2.0 Initiative has been informed by a variety of resources. As mentioned, the HLC Workshop on Assessment of Student Learning was most influential in providing a framework for best practices related to assessment activities.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) was also a source of valuable information and resources. The AAC&U Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) Essential Learning Outcomes, High-Impact Practices (HIPs), and VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education) rubrics have been particularly useful in our ongoing assessment activities. The AAC&U is the premier resource for validated rubrics to assess student learning.

The Lumina Foundation’s Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) has also been a valuable resource. McKendree University was involved in a project with the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and the Lumina Foundation to pilot implementation of an early version of the DQP. The growing assignment library resources, each developed by faculty members and aligned with one or more components of the DQP, are particularly beneficial to assessment and faculty development activities.

And finally, the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) website is a hub for many valuable assessment resources. The Transparency Framework was particularly helpful in guiding and organizing our assessment work and the McKendree University Assessment 2.0 website. The NILOA Transparency Framework includes student learning outcomes statements, assessment plans, assessment resources, current assessment activities, evidence of student learning, and use of student learning evidence.


Association of American Colleges and Universities. 2015. High-impact practices. Accessed January 15. http://www.aacu.org/resources/high-impact-practices.

_____. 2015. Liberal Education & America’s Promise. Accessed January 15. http://www.aacu.org/leap.

_____. 2015. VALUE. Accessed January 15. http://www.aacu.org/value.

Higher Learning Commission. 2013. The Criteria for Accreditation. Chicago: Author.

Lumina Foundation for Education. 2015. The Degree Qualifications Profile. http://degreeprofile.org/.

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. 2011. Transparency Framework. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. http://www.learningoutcomesassessment.org/TransparencyFramework.htmTransparencyFramework.htm.



About the Authors

Tami J. Eggleston is Associate Dean for Institutional Effectiveness and Professor of Psychology and Christine M. Bahr is Provost at McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois.

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NOTE: The papers included in this collection offer the viewpoints of their authors. HLC recommends them for study and for the advice they contain, but they do not represent official HLC directions, rules or policies.

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