The following section provides responses to frequently asked questions regarding AACSB AOL standards and assessment processes. Questions are categorized under the following:
Learning objectives are statements derived from the college mission statement. They specify the intellectual and behavioral competencies a program is intended to instill. In defining these goals, the faculty members clarify how they intend for graduates to be competent and effective as a result of completing the program. For a list of learning objectives see the Assurance of Learning (AOL) website.
AOL stands for Assurance of Learning. It’s the way we check whether the students are learning what we want them to learn. In particular we’re looking at the generic skills they develop throughout the course of the degree program, like communications, critical and creative thinking, etc. AOL is required for our accreditation with AACSB, but it also teaches us lots of useful things about the skills our students are good at and what they’re not, that we probably would never discover if we rely simply on grades. This is because grades typically are based on a composite of these generic skills and content knowledge.
The process of systematically gathering, quantifying, and using information in view of judging the instructional effectiveness and the curricular adequacy of educational programs. It implies the evaluation of quantitative and qualitative evidence of educational activities.
Curricula management refers to the school’s processes and organization for development, design, and implementation of each degree program’s structure, organization, content, assessment of outcomes, pedagogy, etc. Curricula management captures input from key business school stakeholders and is influenced by assurance of learning results, new developments in business practices and issues, revision of mission and strategy that relate to new areas of instruction, etc.
Curriculum development starts with our CBE mission. Program learning goals are then defined as the expected knowledge and skills that program graduates are intended to possess. Curriculum development continues with the creation of program content, structure, organization, pedagogy, and learning assessments to feed into our AOL process. Each program examines ways to improve curricula taking input from not only other faculty, but also other stakeholders and AOL assessment results. Improvements could be at the program-level or at course-level. When a curriculum change is proposed it follows a defined process within the college that involves the department chair, program directors, deans, curricula committee, and the Director of Assessment. For more information, see the Assurance of Learning (AOL) website.
CBE Dean’s Office and faculty developed a five-year plan with annual progress updates. The five-year plan includes the following information and analysis: accreditation documentation and review findings, program changes and improvement plans, and review of student success and learning (AOL). Annual updates to the five-year plan include a report on progress to plan goals and summaries of AOL results. Additional curriculum reviews and improvements can and do occur on a less formal basis within each program and department either through faculty initiative, stakeholder feedback, or the AOL process.
The AOL process starts with our CBE mission, vision, and values. From these, we create program-specific goals that are translated into measurable objectives. Assessment tools or measures are then identified for each objective. These assessment tools or measures use a student work or output that is either assessed using a rubric or assessed based on the questions in a test. Special attention is taken to not use course grades for assessment purposes.
The assessment data for a sampling of students for each program learning objective is collected, the percentage of students meeting learning objective expectations is reported to faculty and stakeholders, and, where appropriate, program improvements are recommended, implemented, and later re-assessed. Using assessment data as a feedback loop to assess previous improvements and to determine if further improvements are needed is known as “closing the loop.” The expectation is that every learning objective will go through a “closing the loop” process at least once every five years between AACSB reviews, promoting a process of continuous improvement of our programs and student learning.
While each program at CBE has its own goals, objectives, and assessments, the overall structure of the AOL process is the same: define goals, objectives, measures and rubrics, assess student work, report assessment results to faculty, dean, and stakeholders, generate program improvement ideas from faculty and others, implement approved improvement ideas, and reassess student work to see impact of improvement actions. This “closing the loop” thus continues with each set of improvements preceded and followed by assessments.
Each quarter or semester, the Director of Assessment contacts the Department Chair where faculty are scheduled to do assessments in their courses. The Department Chair, with input as needed from the Director of Assessment, will arrange for faculty to do assessments. These faculty members are responsible for using the pre-approved assessment measures (rubrics, test questions, etc.) as supplied by the AOL Director. Faculty provide assessment results to the Director of Assessment who then analyzes the data and produces a report of the findings.
Following generation of the learning objective assessment reports and acceptance of the reports by the AOL committee, program directors assemble a team of faculty to review assessment reports and make improvement recommendations. The program director takes these recommendations, which include the name of the faculty to implement the improvement and a target date for completion, to the AOL Subcommittee for approval.
Each program has developed the following AOL components for their program at the college level:
The AOL Subcommittee, a committee that includes at least one faculty member from each department, the Associate Dean, and the Director of AOL oversee the AOL process. This body is the focal point of our AOL process and is tasked with review of assessment results, closing the loop analysis, and improvement action recommendations. In addition, faculty improvement teams may be formed to review assessments, propose program improvements, or conduct other AOL works as needed for the AOL Subcommittee.
Directors, Chairs, AOL Subcommittee, Assessing and Reviewing Faculty, Deans
Through multiple means including, but not limited to, the following: (1) conducting actual assessments, (2) reviewing results, (3) brainstorming action items, and (4) implementing changes.
Yes, in multiple way including, but not limited to, the following: (1) curriculum committee membership, (2) AOL subcommittee membership, (3) quarter-to-semester task forces, (4) implementing the capstone Capsim simulation, (5) conducting regularly scheduled assessments, and (6) reviewing and discussing assessment results for AOL.
Through multiple means including, but not limited to, the following: (1) the Dean’s Advisory Board, (2) indirect assessment of graduating students, and (3) indirect assessment of graduated students (currently a work in progress). Faculty and program directors also seek input from employers/corporations. We have most recently done this with the MSA and MSBA programs. In the BSBA program, the Dean’s office is in communication with corporate training firms about development of our BUS 335 course.
Assessment data collected from valid statistical samples of student work is acceptable to support conclusions about learning outcomes and identification of areas for improvement. Sample characteristics should be established to provide a high degree of confidence that the data are representative, valid, and reliable.
Yes, but the learning goals that are being assessed should be relevant for business and accounting students and established (agreed upon) by the faculty.
AACSB has no such absolute standard. The goal or benchmark for overall student performance on any given learning goal should be determined by each school consistent with its mission, degree programs, and student profile. This performance level provides a basis to determine if the collective student performance on any given learning goal is acceptable or unacceptable. If performance is unacceptable, curricula change should follow to address the problem.
No, but the learning goals do represent the intentions of the faculty for every student. If students are not achieving the learning goals at acceptable levels, action must be taken to strengthen the curriculum for future students.
While in practice many schools choose to incorporate outside assessors in their course-embedded assessments, it is possible to have the class professor perform this function. For this to occur, however, the learning goal, operational objective, and supporting rubrics for evaluating performance must be used consistently and follow the collective decisions of the faculty as a whole regarding what constitutes acceptable student performance.
Each learning goal should have its own performance standard, but a common method or activity can be used to gather data on more than one learning goal. For example, a case analysis may be useful for assessing analytical thinking as well as writing skills or a presentation may be used for evaluating oral communication skills and business disciplinary competence.
AACSB standards do not require inter-institutional benchmarking for student outcomes. Learning goals are unique to each institution though many institutions may have some common goals (e.g. communication skills).
The standards do not require multiple assessments at different points in a curriculum. Pre-test and post-test observations may be valuable and can be used, but AACSB standards do not require this.
Outcomes assessment processes are designed to identify areas for program improvement. Remediation is not required for individual students; however, if assessment data indicate a serious deficiency across a large number of students, an intervention may be desirable, but it is not required. These results, however, should be factored into the assessment process, and action is expected for future students. Can the collective work of student teams be used for assessment? Collective work from a student team does not provide a basis to assess individual student performance and outcomes except where teamwork is a learning goal. In that case the collective work of the team may provide a basis for assessing performance as a team member.
AACSB expects schools to specify 4-10 learning goals for each degree program. There is no limit, but this is the guidance in order to keep the assessment program manageable.
AACSB standards specify “a systematic process” only. Each goal does not have to be assessed every year, but a systematic process is needed to insure all goals are assessed to support meaningful curricula change and development. Normally, each goal should be evaluated at least twice over a five-year AACSB review cycle.
Schools should maintain copies of instruments, course-embedded assignments, scoring grids or rubrics, summary of data and analyses, samples of student products used, documentation that the data was used, and documentation of the curricula actions that were taken based on assessment results.
The implementation of an AOL process for evaluating student learning is a key component of the curricula development process in any business school or accounting program. At the same time, there are other factors that may also dictate curricula change including external, environmental factors that could affect major curricula change, the development of new programs, etc. Such factors should not be ignored and when curricula change is affected by external factors, such events should be documented.
Based on surveys conducted by Dr. Kathryn Martell of Central Washington University, the most popular business-related learning goals are: effective communication skills, ethics, knowledge of all business disciplines, critical thinking, effective decision making, problem solving ability, ability to integrate across business disciplines, global perspective, team skills, and competency in the major.