FAQs

Existential and Philosophical Questions

Why are we doing this?
Aren’t the grades I give to students a way of assessing their learning?
Will the results of my SLO assessment be used in my evaluations?

Access to the Database

How do I get to the database?
Does the Database work with my web browser, Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, etc.?
Can more than one person edit the SLOs for a course at once?
I can’t see all of the tabs in the database screen!
I’m an adjunct faculty member, and I can’t get to the database. What gives?
Who will be able to see my assessment results, and how will they use that information?

Curricunet and TracDat: The Real Story

Should I still enter SLOs into Curricunet?
While I am transferring SLOs from Curricunet to the database, do I have to bring them over exactly as they are? Can I alter or omit some of them?

Entering Course SLO Assessment Plans into the Database

How many SLOs should I enter for a course?
When do I enter SLOs or assessment data into the Database?
How do I map the course SLOs to the GE SLOs?

Assessing SLOs (the AC in the SLOAC)

What constitutes an assessment plan?
Is this an appropriate assessment method?
Is my assessment method awesome?
I can’t map to the program SLOs because they haven’t been completed yet. Am I doomed?
My course is not part of any program. How should I map to program SLOs?
What if I’m bringing a course into the database, and it has three SLOs, but only one has an assessment plan? Do I need to wait until we have developed assessment plans for the other SLOs?
Do I need to assess each SLO every semester?
How often should I assess my SLOs?
What if the faculty who teach a course want to use different assessment methods?
What is the “criterion” box? What criterion should I use?
What if we don’t meet the criterion?
What do I put into the results summary box?

Entering Program SLO Assessment Plans into TracDat

What is a “program”?
Who is responsible for writing and assessing program SLOs?
How do I enter program-level SLOs?
What if there is more than one program in my discipline? How do I indicate which program the SLO applies to?
How do I map the program SLO to the GE SLOs?
How can I indicate which courses are involved in the achievement of my program SLO?

Existential and Philosophical questions

Q: Why are we doing this?
A: The principle behind SLOAC/SAOAC is to provide a framework in which faculty and service providers can, in an organized way, determine how well they are achieving their educational and service goals. It is intended to be a reflective process for self-evaluation of course aims and techniques by the faculty involved. The Outcomes Database (TracDat) provides a location in which learning and service outcomes can be stored and organized, and where assessment results and actions can be documented. The Outcomes Database also provides a means by which SLOAC/SAOAC data can be used as evidence to meet the reporting requirements for our accreditation agencies.
Q: Aren’t the grades I give to students a way of assessing their learning?
A: Student grades are a way of assessing one particular student’s mastery of the course objectives. The SLOAC process has a different emphasis; to determine whether the course as it is being taught is effective at producing the desired masteries, competencies, etc. in students in the course. The SLOAC is an evaluation of the effectiveness of the course, rather than the accomplishment of the student.
Student grades (or related student assessments) may well be part of the method by which an SLO is assessed, but they are not in themselves an SLO.
Q: Will the results of my SLO assessment be used in my evaluations?
A: Absolutely not. The language in the faculty contract is quite clear on this issue; the results of SLO assessment will not be used for faculty discipline or evaluations (section 17.9.1 of the Contract). The SLOAC process is intended to be useful for faculty in designing and improving their courses, not as a tool to enforce certain behaviors or to identify poorly-performing instructors.

Back to Top of Page

Access to the database
Q: How do I get to the database?
A: All full-time faculty should be able to log on to the database using the same login which they use for email access. There is a link to the database on the Palomar College home page, under “Quick Links”.
Q: Does the Database work with my web browser, Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, etc.?

A: So far, it appears that Firefox and Internet Explorer both work well with the Database. Google Chrome does not seem to work well, and we recommend accessing the database with a different browser.

Q: Can more than one person edit the SLOs for a course at once?

A: Yes, but it’s a bad idea. Two users who both have access to a discipline can edit the SLOs for courses in that discipline at the same time, but changes to the database can become confusing if two users are altering the same fields at the same time. We strongly recommend making sure that only one person is editing SLOs in a given course at any time.

Q: I can’t see all of the tabs in the database screen!

A: This often happens when your screen resolution is set too low. We recommend using a resolution of at least 1024×768.

Q: I’m an adjunct faculty member, and I can’t get to the database. What gives?

A: Adjunct faculty must have database access requested for them by their department chair. This policy is designed to allow individual departments the right to determine which individuals have access to the database. Consult with your department chair.

Q: Who will be able to see my assessment results, and how will they use that information?

A: Policies for access to the database are still in development. At this point, only those persons with user access to a discipline can see the SLOs, assessment plans, results and action plans for all courses within their own discipline. As access policies are developed, they will be made clear to the College.

Back to Top of Page

Curricunet and TracDat: The Real Story

Q: Should I still enter SLOs into Curricunet?

A: No. TracDat is the official repository for SLOAC data. However, the  SLO fields will still appear in Curricunet until the vendor is able to remove them. If you are doing a course review in Curricunet before the SLO data entry fields have been removed, you may use placeholder text (e.g. “See TracDat”) in these fields.

Q: While I am transferring SLOs from Curricunet to the database, do I have to bring them over exactly as they are? Can I alter or omit some of them?

A: SLOs do not need to be moved over as they are; changes can be made. As you move SLOs into the database, the faculty responsible for each course should discuss any changes which should be made. This is a good opportunity to discuss any needed changes.

Back to Top of Page

Entering Course SLO Assessment Plans into TracDat

Q: How many SLOs should I enter for a course?

A: The faculty responsible for each course should identify key areas of student learning in the course. Typically, courses end up with anywhere from 1-5 SLOs. In the end, the decision should be made by the faculty based on their identification of assessable outcomes.

Q: When do I enter SLOs or assessment data into the Database?

A: There are no set time periods for entering or updating SLO data. Once SLOs and assessment plans have been entered, they can be updated or revised at any time.  However, all courses *must* have SLOs with assessment plans in the database by Spring 2011. Click here to view the Learning Outcomes Council’s timeline for entering data into the POD as well as a progress report.

Q: How do I map the course SLOs to the GE SLOs?

A: When entering a course SLO, you will link it to associated program and GE SLOs. In that process, you will be provided a list of the program or GE SLOs. You should think about which of the SLOs your course SLO best addresses, and indicate that link by clicking the check-box.

Q: Am I indicating that my course addresses the program/GE SLO, or that this specific SLO addresses it?

A: You are linking the specific course SLO to the program/GE SLO. Each SLO of your course might address a different program/GE SLOs  (or group thereof).  Under the Programs tab in the Outcomes Database, you have the opportunity to map program SLOs to courses within the program.

Q: Is there a minimum or maximum number of program/GE SLOs to which I can link?

A: No, it might be a single one or several. However, do try to think about which SLOs it is most closely aligned with; if the contribution is minor, you probably shouldn’t indicate a link.

Q:. What if my SLO doesn’t align with ANY of the program/GE SLOs

A: In most cases, academic course SLOs should be able to link to one or more program and GE SLOs. However, there is no specific requirement that they do so. Thus, if after careful consideration the faculty decide that the course SLO does not link to any program or GE SLO, you should not check any of the alignment boxes.

Q: .If I link to a GE SLO, does that mean I will have to assess it?

A: Possibly. The assessment strategies for the GE SLOs are currently under development. It is possible that assessment of a given GE SLO will involve requesting data from linked courses, or requesting that faculty teaching linked courses perform a specific assessment. The details are still being worked out. We (the Learning Outcomes Council) will attempt to make any such requests as easy and nonintrusive as possible.

Back to Top of Page

Assessing SLOs (the AC in the SLOAC)

Q: What constitutes an assessment plan?

A: An assessment plan includes the SLO, the methods for assessing the SLO, a timeline for assessing the SLO, and mapping the SLO to course/program/GE/ILOs.  SLO assessment plan data should be entered into TradCat using the 4 entry links listed under the Course Tab and Program Tab. The assessment plan is not really complete until all four of those tabs have been completed.

Q: Is this an appropriate assessment method?

A: That is a question which can only be answered by the faculty teaching the course. Assessment methods should be chosen so that they will provide data which will allow the faculty responsible for a course to determine (a) whether the students are achieving the desired outcome, and (b) if they are not, what changes might be productive in improving the course. Many specific examples and guidelines are available on the Learning Outcomes website, and the LOC and POD squad are available and happy to assist in assessment development. The College’s Research & Planning Office is also available to assist faculty with developing assessment instruments and analyzing the results.  Contact Michelle Barton at  mbarton@palomar.edu, ext. 2360

Q: Is my assessment method awesome?

A: I’m sure it is.

Q: I can’t map to the program SLOs because they haven’t been completed yet. Am I doomed?

A: It may not be possible to complete the entire assessment plan for a course SLO if program SLOs have not yet been developed.  In this case, please complete the Course SLOs, Means of Assessment, and Related GE/Institutional Goals entry forms.  All course SLOs should map to GE/ILOs regardless of whether or not the course is part of a program.

Q: My course is not part of any program. How should I map to program SLOs?

A: If your course is not part of a program, you don’t need to map to any program SLOs. You should still map to the GE SLOs.

Q: What if I’m bringing a course into the database, and it has three SLOs, but only one has an assessment plan? Do I need to wait until we have developed assessment plans for the other SLOs?

A: No, you don’t need to wait. Enter all of the SLOs you have developed for the course, and any assessment plans you have. Do not be discouraged by the Home tab in the POD that highlights Course SLOs without assessment methods.  We will run summary level reports to determine how many courses have at least one SLO with an assessment plan.

Q: Do I need to assess each SLO every semester?

A: No. Each SLO is assessed according to a timeline determined by the faculty teaching the course and the needs of the department. These timelines are typically arranged so that each SLO is assessed every year to every few years. If you feel that an SLO should be assessed every semester, of course, you are free to do so. For more details, see the next question.

Q: How often should I assess my SLOs?

A: This is a decision for the faculty and their department. SLOs do not need to be assessed every term. The assessment timeline should be based on how often the faculty involved wish to determine the status of the SLO, along with the department’s needs in program review (for example, a program SLO may include course SLO assessment data as part of its assessment; in such a case, it might be useful to have the SLO assessment timeline aligned with the program SLO timeline).

Q: What if the faculty who teach a course want to use different assessment methods?

A: This may or may not be a good idea. If the faculty responsible for a course have discussed the issue, and determined that there are multiple possible ways to assess an SLO and they have a way of meaningfully comparing the data from each to produce actionable results, then this can work well. For example, an SLO involving comprehension of a social principle might be assessed both by having the students write an essay on the issue or by having them give an oral presentation. The faculty in the course might develop a common rubric to determine (for each method) how well the student in question has understood the principle, and thus be able to compare the results across methodologies. In another situation, the faculty might be investigating which of several assessment methodologies are most productive for a given SLO, and thus use more than one in the term and discuss the results afterwards. A third scenario might involve a course in which there are many instructors, some of whom prefer to use one method and some another. As long as there is dialogue prior to the assessment as to how the results will be compared productively, these can be good situations for multiple assessment methods.
Using multiple assessment methods (or vaguely defined methods) should not be used to avoid discussion among the faculty teaching the course.

Q: What is the “criterion” box? What criterion should I use?

A: The criterion is how you will determine whether your course is meeting the SLO. For example, it might read “80% of students will achieve a score of at least 3.5 on the rubric.”
The appropriate level for the criterion should be decided by the faculty who teach the course. If the SLO is a basic requirement which all students passing the course should achieve, it might be appropriate to set the criterion at 100%. Such a criterion would imply that having students who fail to achieve the SLO means that the course needs adjustment. On the other hand, for some SLOs, it might be that 70% of students achieving the desired outcome indicates that the course is doing a perfectly good job. This is yet another example where dialogue among those teaching the course as to the desired goals is required.

Q: What if we don’t meet the criterion?

A: Setting a criterion during the assessment planning stage is simply a tool for reflection and discussion for the faculty, not a measure by which faculty performance will be judged by administrators. If the criterion for a course is not achieved, faculty teaching the course should investigate why the criterion wasn’t met and what implications this has on SLOAC planning, the course curriculum and teaching and learning. If assessment of an SLO indicates that students are not meeting the criterion set by the faculty, it might indicate that more attention should be paid to that topic, or that different methods might be employed. On the other hand, it might lead the faculty to decide that the SLO in question does not truly describe the desired outcome, that the assessment method is not effective at determining student achievement of the outcome, or that the criterion is incorrectly set. Since these data are for faulty discussion alone, there should be no sense that the criterion should be set low to make achieving it easy; instead, it should be used as a way of identifying areas where the course can be made more effective at producing the desired results.

Q: What do I put into the results summary box?

A: In the results area, you indicate whether the criterion was met, a  summary of the assessment results as well as any implications. The summary should be relatively short. However, you can attach documents with more extensive discussion, spreadsheets with statistical data or scores, rubrics used, etc.

Back to Top of Page

Entering Program SLO Assessment Plans into the Database

Q: What is a “program”?

A: A program is currently defined as “a series of courses leading to a degree or certificate.”

Q: Who is responsible for writing and assessing program SLOs?

A: Each program is “owned” by a department (even if some of the courses within the program are in other departments). The faculty in the “owning” department are responsible for the SLOs of the program, although they are certainly strongly encouraged to collaborate with the faculty teaching all courses in the program when determining desired program outcomes.

Q: How do I enter program-level SLOs?

A: Once you have logged into TracDat, choose the discipline which owns the program from the pull-down menu at the top of the screen. Click on the “Program SLO” blue tab, and you will find a list of program SLOs in that discipline (see the next question as well). There will be a yellow button at the bottom, enabling you to add a new program SLO. When you click it, you will get a new screen, on which you will be able to enter the relevant SLO information, including the “Program Title”, which is the specific program within that discipline to which the SLO you are entering belongs.

Q: What if there is more than one program in my discipline? How do I indicate which program the SLO applies to?

A: When you enter or edit a program SLO, you can choose the “Program Title”. This is the specific program within the discipline to which the SLO belongs.

Q: How do I map the program SLO to the GE SLOs?

A: In the grey bar under the Program SLO tab, you will find the “Related GE/Institutional Goals” area. Here, you can indicate which of the GE SLOs your program SLO aligns with.

Q: How can I indicate which courses are involved in the achievement of my program SLO?

A: In the grey bar, you will find the “Related Courses” area. Here, you can indicate which courses within the discipline relate to the program SLO, as well as whether the program SLO is introduced, developed, or assessed in each course. This process of mapping the curriculum within the program helps to determine how the SLO is to be achieved.

Back to Top of Page