Can the assessment of student learning outcomes be a component of the performance review process?
By: KC Boylan
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Standard III 1.C (Adopted June, 2002, Revised June 2012) reads, “Faculty and others directly responsible for student progress towards achieving stated student learning outcomes have, as a component of their evaluation, effectiveness in producing those learning outcomes. “
When LRCFT and LRCCD began contract negotiations in 2005, LRCCD expressed an interest in including the assessment of Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) in the performance review process (Article 8 of the collective bargaining agreement). Their interest was in meeting the accreditation standards (III.1.C.). The LRCFT negotiating team had many discussions about the mounting pressure for accountability standards, emerging from the Department of Education and appearing in the new accreditation standards; we acknowledged that the district was under tremendous pressure to move in that direction and we recognized that other critical issues would not be negotiated if we were enmeshed in a non-winnable conflict over SLO assessment.
The challenge for the LRCFT negotiating team was to find a way to protect the performance review process, maintaining the peer driven process that focused on collegial conversations promoting professionalism and enhancing performance, while also responding to the external mandates facing the district to conform.
Fortunately, the Academic Senate and the District Curriculum committee had already provided a solution. Curriculum outlines developed in SOCRATES included two significant components: Course Outcomes/Objectives and Methods of Evaluation/Assessment. Since curriculum development is a faculty driven process under the control of the Academic Senate, and only faculty have the authority in Los Rios to develop and approve new or revised curriculum, LRCFT agreed to incorporate the following Professional Responsibility into the performance review process for classroom faculty:
Adheres to the approved course outline and effectively assesses the student learning outcomes as stated in the approved course outline.
Faculty under review may also choose to include information in their Self-Study about their efforts to assess student learning outcomes in the instructional environment, through department efforts or as a component of college planning; however, they are not obligated to select SLO assessment as a focus for professional growth.
Finally, the LRCCD/LRCFT collective bargaining agreement defines “approved course outline” as “the official documentation emerging from the Academic Senate led curriculum recommendation process that has been approved by formal action of the Los Rios Board of Trustees.” (Article 8.3.5)
So the question remains: “Can the assessment of student learning outcomes be a component of the performance review process?”
The answer is “Yes” if the “assessment” refers to the classroom assessment strategies that faculty use in the class to determine the academic progress of our students. As a matter of Academic Freedom (Article 17.2), “Faculty members have the principal right and responsibility to determine the methods of instruction, the planning and presentation of course materials, and the fair and equitable methods of assessment in their assignment in accordance with the approved curriculum and course outline and the educational mission of the District in accordance with state laws and regulations.”
During the performance review process, faculty may be asked about and evaluated on the methods they use when assessing students’ learning outcomes on class assignments and student performance. Faculty under review should be able to identify which methodology they use, and why.
However, the answer, currently, is “No” if the “assessment” refers to an institutional planning process that occurs outside of the classroom.