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The 2009 ASHS Annual Conference

North Dakota State University Horticulture Program Assessment

Monday, July 27, 2009: 10:36 AM
Field (Millennium Hotel St. Louis)
Harlene Hatterman-Valenti, North Dakota State Univ, Fargo, ND
Assessment can be considered a conversation about student learning, enriched by data with a goal to improve student learning.  Assessment has been a major issue since approximately 1982, but by the end of 1995, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools mandated that assessment plans be in place.  These assessment plans consist of direct, indirect, and non-measures of student learning.  For many years we have been assessing student knowledge through testing and exams.  We have also been conducting indirect measures of student learning through employer surveys, exit interviews with graduating seniors, and job placement data.  All have programmatic significance, but with direct measures of student learning in relation to objectives and program outcomes, we can provide evidence to help ensure that student outcomes are being achieved and student learning is being improved.             Three years ago a course review assessment plan was initiated for the horticulture curriculum, which included a request that all faculty members conduct a pre-test/post-test for each didactic course they teach.  This classroom assessment technique (CAT) provided a direct measure of student learning, but it was quickly discovered that proper CAT implementation was needed for reliable information.  In response, faculty members met and discussed the best methods to utilize this CAT and are now incorporate pre-test questions in exams and finals so that questions represent course objectives and more accurately reflect student learning.             The course review assessment plan divided the courses over six semesters so that each faculty member would not review more than one course that he/she taught each year.  This review consisted of the faculty member redefining course learning objectives and relating these objectives to the horticulture program outcomes; incorporating at least one additional classroom assessment technique; and evaluating assessment results.  In addition, all faculty members were asked to complete a self-evaluation of their assessment practices every other year.  It is anticipated that in time, each faculty member will increase their level of implementation for each individual category of achievement in evaluating student learning.            The final aspect of assessing the horticulture program at NDSU consists of closing the loop with students and faculty members.  This means sharing information with students and faculty in order to improve student learning at the course level as well as the program level.