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Washington State University Graduate School

Assessment Highlights

All WSU graduate programs are required to submit annual assessment reports that document the collection, review, and use of assessment data by faculty in the program. The program reports are summarized in an annual assessment summary report, and programs receive individual feedback from the Graduate School on their assessment process and use of assessment data. In 2015-2016, graduate programs met the following standards for program-level assessment.

  • 100% of graduate programs (73) submitted an assessment report to the Graduate School.
  • 100% of graduate programs (73) have an assessment plan in place with student learning outcomes and procedures for collecting and reviewing assessment data at the program-level.
  • 97% of the programs (71) reported that they used assessment data for program planning or decision making compared to 85% of programs in 2015 and 61% of programs in 2012.
  • Of the 73 programs that submitted assessment reports, 72% of the programs (53) met Graduate School expectations for collecting and using assessment data for meaningful program assessment, and 11% of the programs (8) submitted exemplary reports.


Selected highlights from recent graduate and professional program assessment reports are listed below.

Chemistry, MS/PhDBased on the assessment of student performance, the physical chemistry division recently decided to discontinue their cumulative exam program that has been used for the past seven years as a qualifying exam system before a graduate student takes their formal Preliminary Exam. In place of this series of 6 exams held in a student's 2nd year, the division will adopt a qualifying exam similar to the other divisions in the department, consisting of a single written exam at the end of their 2nd year followed by an oral exam in front of the full physical chemistry faculty.
Educational Psychology, MA/PhDMany of our students publish in top-tier journals that require robust use and reporting of statistical principles. A few [students] documented a need for more courses and training that would support their efforts to publish in these top-tier journals. In addition, some students need help in developing and focusing their research agenda. We will keep reinforcing with students the importance of consuming research to focus their research agenda, the idea of quality of work and what it means in terms of work habits and expectations to develop into scholars and have robust research agenda. We have also developed two more statistical courses that have just being approved by the faculty senate. We will begin to offer these advanced statistical courses next academic year.
Molecular Plant Sciences, PhDThe use of exit interviews has been useful for measuring student learning and improving the program. Over the past six years this has led to changes in curriculum, recruitment and support in grant writing. We anticipate that the use of evaluation rubrics for both the qualifying exam and the dissertation defense, as well as the evaluation forms for each student’s first and second seminar, will further improve the program’s education methods and outcomes.
Nursing, PhDIn academic year 2015-2016, faculty restructured N524 Research Seminar: Research Development and Critique in order to place more emphasis on grant writing within our curriculum. Students were required to write a grant in concurrence with their advisor and participate in a live grant-review session. Some students will be submitting the grants from this course in the next few months, while others will be submitting their grants next year. The changes to this course were made in order to help increase the research productivity of our students, giving the students valuable skills for their academic and research careers.
Public Affairs, MPAOur program conducts ongoing comprehensive assessment protocols, and we incorporate feedback where necessary. For example, based on NASPAA reviews and student feedback, we had an increased emphasis on leadership in our Proseminar in Public Administration Course to speak to the learning outcome requirement, “to lead and manage in public governance."
Special Education, PhDThe Special Education Program implemented two new requirements for doctoral students during the fall 2015. The two requirements were a result of assessment meetings in 2014-15 in which evidence of our students’ performance in teaching and research were examined. From those analyses, it was felt that our doctoral students needed to complete one internship in research and one internship in teaching during their doctoral program (the two new requirements). After reviewing the graduate students’ performance in May of 2015, specifically doctoral students, faculty spent part of the time at monthly program meetings in the fall (2015) and spring (2016) to discuss adding a doctoral competency portfolio to the doctoral requirements. A subcommittee worked on the doctoral competency portfolio in the spring 2016 semester. Final approval of the doctoral competency portfolio came from program faculty at the May 2-3, 2016 program retreat. This portfolio will be implemented with the new doctoral students in the fall of 2017.
Sociology, MA/PhDThrough analysis of job placement statistics, exit survey data, “town hall” conversations with current graduate students, and faculty discussions, it was apparent that more guidance on entering the job market was needed if we wish to continue to place students in high-ranking positions within and outside of academia. We invited a guest speaker from a non-profit research institute to talk about how to best prepare for a non-academic job; Hannah Merley from OGRD to speak about grantsmanship for graduate students; and faculty from U of Oregon to give a research seminar and speak with graduate students about their research.
Strategic Communication, MAThis spring we are focused on assessment of our capstone curriculum and balloting processes. As the first official WSU Professional Master’s degree, the online MA Strategic Communication program is pioneering efforts to design curriculum and balloting processes centered around high standards of quality design, execution and evaluation methodology. Our goal is to improve quality, create greater efficiencies and establish a replicable and sustainable model for future online MA programs. We are also conducting a two-year audit that will generate a model of ongoing self-reflection, collaboration, teamwork and peer feedback for our online degree programs. It is based on structured conversations among administrators, advisors, faculty, stakeholders and peer reviewers all focused on a common goal: to improve quality processes in teaching and learning in our online degree programs and courses and therefore enhance student and faculty success. Areas we will focus on include learning outcomes, curriculum, teaching and learning and student learning assessment.
Apparel, Merchandising, and Textiles, MAWith the refined program objectives and student learning outcomes and newly hired faculty, the curriculum has undergone some significant changes in Academic Year 2014/15. The minor revision in AMDT 508 has gone through Faculty Senate process. The revised AMDT 508 is more focused on environmental and social issues in the apparel industry. The course assignments and projects became more industry focused with application of relevant theories. AMDT 520 has been completely redesigned to become a apparel functional design class that is based on analysis of customer needs.
Civil and Environmental EngineeringStandardized evaluation and assessment between the Pullman and Tri-Cities campuses. Put procedures in place to ensure annual student evaluations, student exit interviews, and gather assessment data.
Cultural Studies and Social Thought in Education, PhDDuring the 2014 school year, CSSTE faculty focused on improving writing skills for CSSTE students. We included conference proposal writing skills in our one hour Reading/Writing seminar and helped students with their proposals. We also will begin implementing a writing curriculum that will be spread across all four required core CSSTE courses so that each semester of the two years of coursework, students will be required to complete a particular type of scholarly writing: autobiography; literature review; book review/analysis; and manuscript ready journal article. CSSTE faculty are still collecting research articles on how best to facilitate writing for marginalized students who come into our program.
Elementary and Secondary Education, MITNew standards for teacher preparation were developed and approved in 2014 by the PESB. All courses needed to be aligned to those new standards during the program accreditation process. We were required to provide two years of prior program data (and student work evidence) to support our report. The changes, then, were to update selected courses in content and the listed competencies of the standards that were being met. We also reviewed results from our students' certification exam (edTPA portfolio) that is completed during student teaching internships (TCH LRN 595). Those data provided us with needed actionable changes to how we prepared students within the program. Thus, all course syllabi have been modified to include the new standards and competencies and certain courses modified what was done in them to include modified content and strategies.
Neuroscience, PhDDeveloped micro-course concept to make program more responsive to new developments and more customizable for students. Also joined several other graduate programs primarily based in the CVM to develop a common curriculum that address issues of common interest, specifically the process of science and professional development.
Nursing Practice, DNPProgram Faculty implemented changes in the course curriculum in an effort to map the DNP curriculum to AACN Essentials for DNP Education and, for NP programs, to the National Task Force on Nurse Practitioner Education and to the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties Population-Focused Competencies.
Pharmacy, PharmDWe used data from our bi-annual Teaching and Learning Report which indicated a predominance of courses being taught exclusively in a lecture format with limited student active learning within the classroom. Faculty are embarking on a programmatic revision of our teaching and learning pedagogy - to "flip" the classroom with the focus on increasing student engagement and active learning within class time and increasing the student preparation prior to class.
Business Administration, PhDThe decision to discuss teaching effectiveness in the first year college-wide seminar seems to be having a positive effect on doctoral student teaching quality. In addition, the university has provided training opportunities for doctoral students university-wide that have been beneficial to the business students. On the other hand, the survey of current students suggests a need to provide more mentoring on how to become an effective instructor (see Exhibit 11).

Moving forward, faculty will be encouraged to have their graduate student assistants regularly attend class to observe and subsequently discuss faculty teaching techniques. In addition, the DPPC recommends expanding the number of days devoted to teaching in the professional development seminar, and offering a brown bag of “best practices” in which CB faculty chat with students about lessons learned and tips for teaching. Such brown bag sessions could be encouraged or could be required.
Coordinated Program in Dietetics, Nutrition, and Exercise Physiology, MSThe plan will be to continue the current evaluation process. The student learning scores were met using the direct measures as outlined in the five student learning outcome goals. The CPD director in consultation with the NEP chair and NEP faculty will continue to evaluate and update the curriculum on an ongoing basis. CPD faculty will be encouraged to continue to strive for excellence by incorporating more hands-on learning utilizing the inter-professional educational (IPE) activities that are occurring on the WSU Spokane campus. The IPE currently are utilizing standardize patient training that involves dietetic students, nursing students, pharmacy students, and medical students. Other health practitioner disciplines such as physical therapy, speech and hearing, dental education and occupational therapy also participate with IPE activities such as the Health Care Team Challenge on the WSU Spokane campus.

For this next academic year the focus for strengthening the dietetics program will be on medical nutrition therapy concepts, enteral nutrition calculations and insurance billing. These weaknesses were noted by preceptor evaluation scores and qualitative feedback given by the preceptors. Instructors who are responsible for these competencies have had these evaluation results shared with them. The faculty responsible for this content will include more didactic content and training in the didactic portion of their courses.
English Language Learners/Bilingual Education, EdM/MAProgram assessment data indicate that the overwhelming majority of students meet the student learning outcomes established by program faculty. This has been achieved through the dedicated work of program faculty to think creatively around course delivery options and student populations in those courses. The program has explored online course delivery, AMS course delivery, hybrid courses, and courses with mixed graduate and undergraduate students. In addition, because of the high number of international students (particularly in Pullman), faculty have modified instruction to make both content and delivery more accessible and usable by a diverse student body. In the coming year, faculty will offer all master’s level courses via AMS (except the practicum). In regards to student assessment data, this allows faculty greater access to students across the state and will enhance the program data collected for analysis.
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MS/PhDBased on the Survey of EECS Graduate Students and the recommendations of the faculty, we are engaging more and more graduate students in teaching classes, providing them opportunities to gain teaching experiences. During the last 2 academic years 6 EE and 5 CptS graduate students have taught various undergraduate students at School of EECS. Overall they got very positive feedback in student evaluations. EECS would continue to provide opportunities for graduate students to gain teaching experience when they are qualified.
Food Science, MS/PhDThe School of Food Science External Advisory Board met in October 2012, 2013 with meetings planned for 2014. This group of successful food industry professionals wants to employ students with better communication skills and problem-solving abilities. Based on their recommendations we have extensively revised oral and written seminar courses and provided a new problem solving course taught by a senior professional from the regional food industry to provide our students with opportunities to address current problems in the sector using their technical expertise and critical thinking skills developed during their graduate program. We are continuing to incorporate more writing into the graduate curriculum to improve communication skills and are also encouraging students to engage in campus, regional and national meetings where they will have opportunities to make scientific presentations to a broader audience and improve their skills.