Learning assessment practices and processes for Non-Degree Non-Credit (NDNC) offerings at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) are directed by the University Council on Learning Assessment (UCLA) formed by the provost’s office to guide the divisions’ efforts as they develop learning objectives guided by teaching and learning best practices and driven by evidence-based instruction. The assessment plan for NDNC offerings aligns with Johns Hopkins University’s vision, mission, and values. This plan promotes reflective practices through a robust review of performance-based assessment measures that ultimately drive division and institutional level improvements aimed to increase students’ knowledge, skills, abilities, and satisfaction while also impacting their practice and community. The UCLA members review the plan regularly and offer suggestions to enhance effectiveness of assessment and evaluation practices. Implementation of the plan is an iterative process of continuous quality improvement. UCLA is tasked with providing a high standard of assessment at JHU, one that is geared toward improvement and innovation in assessment practices using advanced techniques and innovative technology.
Additionally, each academic division has been tasked with developing and maintaining a NDNC assessment plan with educational objectives appropriate to the disciplines employers are looking for, to their practice, and to appropriate professional performance standards. They are also expected to maintain a level of academic performance that distinguishes Johns Hopkins University.
Mission, vision, and values define what JHU aspires to implement in affecting change and values in the community, and specifically in its own student body. Assessment analyses provide evidence that learning outcomes across divisions, whether curricular or co-curricular, align with JHU’s mission, vision, and values as defined.
The Assessment process outlined above, presents an overview of what is expected from each division when creating assessments in non-academic credit offerings. As stated, assessment processes need to align with the divisional vision, mission, and values as they align with the University’s mission, vision, and values.
The process articulates the following steps:
UCLA recognizes that assessment in the non-academic credit space is not as deep or as extensive as in academic spaces. Tracking learners’ growth in these spaces is sometimes unrealistic, and the need for evidence of learning using one assessment may be sufficient to collect evidence of mastery of the content. Regardless, assessment in NDNC still needs to follow the quality and rigor outlined by UCLA’s vision for best practices and quality assessments. In order to maintain the quality offerings in NDNC expected at JHU, there is a need for:
1) programs, certificates, or courses to articulate program/certificate-level and course-level competencies and learning outcomes that accurately describe the expected performance required by the end of the course or program;
2) learning materials to align with well-defined course competencies and learning outcomes, and to provide learners with the skills, knowledge, and abilities they need to succeed;
3) competencies and outcomes to be evaluated using effective and authentic assessments that measure attainment of knowledge, skills, and abilities, and;
4) programs, certificates, or courses to deliver a quality and rewarding learning experience that enables participants to achieve the expected competencies and stated learning outcomes.
The following figure, affirms UCLA’s vision on the need of evidence of learning, using quality materials and assessments. Assessments need to measure and be a part of learning and be outcome-based.
Competencies and learning outcomes are related terms but are not interchangeable. Competencies are general statements that define applied skills and knowledge enabling participants to perform successfully in their own practice. Learning outcomes are very specific statements that are measurable and describe what a participant will be able to do by the end of instruction. Each competency may have more than one learning outcome associated with it (Hartel & Foegeding, 2004).
UCLA recommends that when creating program, certificate, and course competencies and / or learning outcomes, the divisions need to ensure that these competencies and outcomes reflect the following best practices:
1) Mastery – Need to reflect the level of mastery necessary for the learner to demonstrate level of knowledge, skill, or performance;
2) Measurability – Are stated using measurable outcomes or in the case of competencies, performance standards using clear and direct language;
3) Relevancy – Demonstrate skills and knowledge relevant to the learner’s work, licensing, practice, performance expectations to work, or other performance expectations, and
4) Accuracy – Accurately reflect performance requirements associated with workplace and professional standards of performance.
Collecting data and tracking evidence of learning are crucial steps on the way to improvement. Therefore, collecting these evidence-based artifacts and evaluations in one system is paramount to ensuring the success of assessment best practices. To that end, UCLA recommends that all assessments are tracked in the JHU- Assessment Management System (JHU-AMS) and its associated JHU-CLR. Micro-credentials and badges are issued by the same system and can be shared on social media or directly with employers using the JHU-AMS.
Assessment data and results could be collected by administrative coordinators or TAs, and uploaded to the system, especially if instructors have not been expected to assess using any established system at the University. However, instructors or TAs can evaluate learners’ performance directly in the JHU-AMS or the chosen Learning Management System.
Assessment methods in the NDNC space could be but not limited to group activities, discussions, presentations, observations, or quizzes. They could be formative or summative depending on need. However, all these activities need to be associated with evaluative rubrics that represent the learner’s performance in attaining mastery, proficiency, or not meeting expectations. The evaluation of these activities using an established rubric that carefully aligns to learning objectives, is expected to be completed by the instructor or a TA in the course.
Self and peer-evaluations are acceptable measures of learning when paired with other measures that are conducted by the instructor or the TA. Self or peer-evaluations cannot be used as the only measures that determine student performance, since they are not reliable in determining that the learner accurately attained the stated level of knowledge, skills, and abilities in the course.
Employers and other stakeholders will be looking for evidence of learning in specific skills, and it is the responsibility of the program to accurately confirm that the candidates, employers are hiring, truly possess the stated knowledge, skills, and abilities.
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