HLC Self Study
Chapter 6 Graphic

Assessment of General Education

The Student Academic Achievement Committee (SAAC) was formed in 1995 to promote continued excellence in teaching and learning, by assessing the effectiveness of instruction and determining the scope of competence for student learning outcomes (abilities). The faculty committee is comprised of representatives from all instructional divisions and is supported by the Office of Planning and Institutional Effectiveness. The mission of SAAC is to improve student learning through:

  • The integration of student abilities and student learning outcomes into programs and curricula
  • Creative and practical assessment of academic achievement
  • The analysis of assessment data to better inform teaching and learning practices

Co-chaired by two faculty members who report in these roles to the Vice President of Academic Affairs, SAAC has guided the College’s assessment efforts for almost two decades. During that time, Estrella Mountain’s assessment efforts have evolved from two to seven general education abilities, eliminating the need for separate assessments for developmental education and workforce development. In accordance with a recommendation by assessment consultant Dr. Henry Rinne (a Consultant-Evaluator with HLC), teams were formed in spring 2010 for each of the seven general education abilities. Each team was tasked with defining the ability and developing a common assessment method and rubric for the team’s particular general education ability.

Estrella Mountain students are now assessed using instruments developed and approved by SAAC, using a curriculum-integrated assessment approach. Tools to accomplish this include a cycle of assessment, SAAC EZ forms (i.e., record of individual faculty assessment efforts) and Team EZ forms (i.e., record of collaborative faculty assessment efforts). The College also uses a newly-developed General Education Abilities Matrix to guide the assessment of critical thinking on a rotating basis through the following areas:

  • Communication
  • Composition/Writing
  • Numeracy
  • Scientific Inquiry
  • Information Literacy
  • Technological Literacy
  • Social, Civic and Global Responsibility
Figure 43

Course Level Assessment

All courses offered at Estrella Mountain are part of a larger Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) course bank. All courses listed in the course bank include a description, a course of study outline and a set of competencies that each faculty member must cover. There have been several discussions among members of the Maricopa County Community College District Curriculum Committee as to whether or not course competencies are equivalent to learning outcomes. Discussions include the suggestion that course competencies should be replaced by outcomes or simply re-titled as outcome statements. At the time of the publication of this document, no resolution had been reached.  As a result, Estrella Mountain faculty members assess the course competencies identified in the course bank and additional learning goals for all 100- and 200-level courses. The competencies are listed in a faculty member’s individual course syllabus.

Program and Institutional Level Assessment

Assessment at Estrella Mountain also occurs at the program and institutional level. In fall 2010, the Student Academic Achievement Committee began mapping the association between the curriculum and the general education abilities. Through the General Education Abilities Mapping Project, the College is able to identify which of the seven general education abilities are addressed in specific courses. The project initially examined the top 33 courses that were taken by associate degree completers. The information was visually presented on a grid to indicate the courses in which each of the abilities was addressed. The mapping project also indicated which particular courses are formally assessing specific abilities by a majority of the faculty members teaching that specific course. The project has recently been expanded to extend across all courses, and has included participation by more than 100 faculty members.

As part of program level assessment, the College also utilizes an extensive Program Review process. The purpose of Program Review at Estrella Mountain is to assess programs through a systematic, cyclical review process with the goal of improving learning and services for students. Program Review templates include a focus on student learning outcomes and contain common questions for academic, occupational, student, and administrative services. An evaluative summary of academic and occupational Program Reviews serve as a holistic review of the Estrella Mountain General Education Program.

The general education abilities also serve as a core component of the institution-wide assessment of learning at Estrella Mountain. It is becoming more of a common practice for faculty and staff to integrate the general education abilities into out-of-class assessment tools. For example, Estrella Mountain conducts a Student Conference each spring and uses the latest communication rubric as part of the evaluation for students presenting their research-based projects. 

In terms of certificates and degrees, programs may be college-specific or shared by a few or all MCCCD colleges. Estrella Mountain’s programs can be found on the Maricopa County Community College District website. Occupational program listings include program-level competencies that provide the basis for program-level assessment. Program competencies identify the knowledge or skills required in the workplace. These competencies often reflect the requirements of professional certifications, board exams or other industry required credentials. They are generally developed with input from industry and/or community advisory boards.

The SouthWest Skill Center also assesses student learning in its noncredit programs. The SouthWest Skill Center serves the growing community of the West Valley with short-term, hands-on training that prepares students for current and future job opportunities. Program and externship evaluations are completed and gathered by the Program Manager for each cohort. Evaluations are then summarized and shared with instructors. Based on evaluation results, improvements are made as needed to the curriculum and pedagogy.  Programs being assessed consist of the following:

  • Emergency Medical Technology
  • Medical Assisting
  • Medical Billing and Coding
  • Nurse Assistant
  • Practical Nurse
  • Phlebotomy
  • Spanish Medical Interpreter

The SouthWest Skill Center is in the process of developing a survey instrument that can be used across all programs. This will help to support consistent data collection to document learning and improve program quality. 

Assessment Cycle

In spring 2010, on behalf of all Estrella Mountain faculty, the Faculty Senate approved a new Institutional Assessment Cycle. The cycle assures that each of the seven general education abilities goes through a full assessment cycle on a regular basis.

Figure 44