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“What We Learned About our Program that has Nothing to do with Student Learning Outcomes-An Argument
Unformatted Document Text:  What We Learned About our Program that has Nothing to do with Student Learning Outcomes Alexandra Cole Jennifer De Maio California State University, Northridge California State University, Northridge

Authors: Cole, Alexandra. and DeMaio, Jennifer.
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What We Learned About our Program that has Nothing to do with
Student Learning Outcomes
Alexandra Cole
Jennifer De Maio
California State University, Northridge California State University, Northridge
Abstract: The various assessment methods available to Political Science
Departments each have their pros and cons. Standardized tests may be seen as an
efficient and a less labor intensive way to collect data on student learning outcomes
(SLOs), but these lack contextual information. Exit interviews and works collected
from capstone courses may provide context in terms of SLO knowledge, but not offer
information about the development of this knowledge. Portfolios may provide
information about the development of SLO knowledge, but may often represent the
students’ ‘best’ work and thus impart bias. This paper will present an argument for a
labor intensive type of assessment in which data is collected from students in courses
at each level of work [i.e. lower division to upper division] in order to measure the
progression of SLO knowledge. The assessment plan presented, Progressive Direct
Assessment (PDA) is that of the CSU Northridge Department of Political Science
which does just this. From the experience of the authors, such a labor intensive plan
not only offers insights about the development of SLOs, but has also provided
knowledge about aspects of the learning process that are not readily uncovered by the
other, aforementioned methods of program assessment such as: citation problems
among students, writing skills, and the effect that clear instructions have on student
works. This paper also reports on faculty members' attitudes toward PDA. It is this
sort of information which has proven most useful in terms of program improvement
* Paper prepared for presentation at the APSA Teaching and Learning Conference, San
Jose, CA. February 22-24, 2008.


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