HLC Self Study
Chapter 3 Graphic

First Concern

While progress has occurred in the development of a plan for institutional effectiveness, efforts in the assessment of student academic achievement are lagging. Issues for concern include the lack of full faculty participation, multiple measures and sufficient student numbers for analysis. The issue of assessment measures for critical thinking also needs to be resolved.”

In recent years, Estrella Mountain residential faculty members have shown increased support in expanding and improving student academic assessment efforts. Through an evolution of various assessment strategies and tools, the Student Academic Achievement Committee (SAAC), a residential faculty-driven committee, has formally expanded Estrella Mountain’s general education abilities from two adopted abilities (communication and critical thinking) to seven stated general education abilities. The new general education abilities are:

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

How to assess critical thinking was a concern among college faculty. Critical thinking was one of the original general education abilities approved by the faculty. However, it became apparent that assessing critical thinking independently of other general education abilities was problematic, as critical thinking is best demonstrated through all of the abilities. For example, students demonstrate critical thinking when engaging in acts such as scientific inquiry, communication and writing.  Faculty concluded that it would be best to examine students’ critical thinking when assessing the other general education abilities by using Bloom’s Taxonomy levels of learning.  The concept was first applied with the fall 2010 institution-wide communication assessment. Faculty developed a rubric which they then closely evaluated in order to identify a critical thinking sub-score by linking individual items to higher order Bloom’s Taxonomy levels.

Figure 11

Estrella Mountain residential faculty members also have embraced a new curriculum-integrated assessment model. Common assessment tools are now used at Estrella Mountain Community College to evaluate a general education ability that specifically aligns with course curriculum. Each ability is now assessed at a specific point in time, according to the faculty approved General Education Abilities Assessment Cycle.  The assessment cycle, approved by the faculty in fall 2009, indicates the year and semester in which the collection of data, evaluation of data and development of strategies for improving student learning take place.