Alumni Teaching Scholars engage in discussion at their annual retreat

Assessment Brief #82 - What Did We Learn About the Miami Plan Through Program Review

Assessment Logo: assessment-revision-outcomes

April 2014

The Miami Plan for Liberal Education was established in 1989 with four principles: 1) Students will engage in critical thinking, 2) Students will understand contexts, 3) Students will engage with other learners, and 4) Students will reflect and act. Beginning in 2003, in assessment reports submitted concurrently with program review, departments were requested to specify how their GMP courses (Foundation, Thematic Sequence, and Capstone) manifested GMP principles and were being assessed from three perspectives: that of the faculty (Tier I); that of the students (Tier II); and a direct assessment of student work (Tier III). The assessment loop was closed by providing feedback to the departments on their reports. However, no compilation of the data across all the program reviews was done and reported to Liberal Education Council.

To what extent was this process successful in generating a culture of assessing GMP goals in GMP courses? To answer this question, we reviewed GMP assessment documents beginning in the 2005-06 year and continuing through 2011-12 (no reviews were done in 2012-13; and by 2013-14 a new process was in place). This sample included representation from across the university: CAS 21 reports, FSB 4, CEC 1, CEHS 5, CCA 4, CPSAS 2.

Each department had 36 total opportunities to assess the GMP: 3 course levels x 3 tiers x 4 Miami Plan goals. We tallied how many of these had actually occurred, e.g., If a capstone course directly assessed critical thinking a tally was entered into the appropriate cell of the table below. The average number of tally marks per department was 16, with range of 0-31. Not surprisingly, direct assessment of student work (Tier III) lagged the other two Tiers substantially. This was true for all 4 principles and all course levels (foundation, thematic, and capstone). Critical thinking was the most-commonly assessed principle at all three course levels, in all three tiers, and especially by student work (60 total compared to about 40 for the other 3 principles). The foundation level was the most frequent source of assessment data (237 tallied), and the capstone courses were the least common source (190 tallied). One would think, given that capstones generally have lower enrollments than foundation courses, that it would be easier to examine student papers from capstones. However, the number of assessments of student work was comparable across course levels: Tier III for Foundations = 27, Thematic sequences = 27, Capstones = 31.

GMP Principles Assessment by Tier and Principle, Grouped by Course Level

  • Foundation
    • Critical Thinking
      • Tier I - 31
      • Tier II - 27
      • Tier III - 12
      • Total - 70
    • Understanding Contexts
      • Tier I - 27
      • Tier II - 25
      • Tier III - 7
      • Total - 59
    • Engaging With Other Learners
      • Tier I - 25
      • Tier II - 25
      • Tier III - 3
      • Total - 53
    • Reflecting & Acting
      • Tier I - 24
      • Tier II - 26
      • Tier III - 5
      • Total - 55
    • Total
      • Tier I - 107
      • Tier II - 103
      • Tier III - 27
      • Total - 237
  • Thematic Sequence
    • Critical Thinking
      • Tier I - 24
      • Tier II - 22
      • Tier III - 13
      • Total - 59
    • Understanding Contexts
      • Tier I - 22
      • Tier II - 20
      • Tier III - 6
      • Total - 48
    • Engaging With Other Learners
      • Tier I - 22
      • Tier II - 21
      • Tier III - 4
      • Total - 47
    • Reflecting & Acting
      • Tier I - 20
      • Tier II - 21
      • Tier III - 4
      • Total - 45
    • Total
      • Tier I - 88
      • Tier II - 84
      • Tier III - 27
      • Total - 199
  • Capstone
    • Critical Thinking
      • Tier I - 21
      • Tier II - 23
      • Tier III - 16
      • Total - 60
    • Understanding Contexts
      • Tier I - 18
      • Tier II - 21
      • Tier III - 7
      • Total - 46
    • Engaging With Other Learners
      • Tier I - 18
      • Tier II - 21
      • Tier III - 4
      • Total - 43
    • Reflecting & Acting
      • Tier I - 17
      • Tier II - 20
      • Tier III - 4
      • Total - 41
    • Total
      • Tier I - 74
      • Tier II - 85
      • Tier III - 31
      • Total - 190

The focus on critical thinking is testimony to the effectiveness of programs during this era led by Liberal Education and CELTUA. Most surprising was that capstone courses were not assessed as often as one might expect . The positive feature of this situation is that during this era we learned about student achievements in our highest enrollment courses. The negative is that during this era we did not learn as much about the accomplishments of our students near the point of graduation. In 2011, the university began using culminating program level assessments as a means of tracking Miami Plan goals into the majors. We hope this will result in greater use of student work coming from capstone assignments for assessment purposes.