San Diego City College’s mission statement, priorities and institutional competencies describe our commitment facilitating student success. One means to fulfill this mission is through the Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Cycle (SLOAC), which asks campus constituents to engage in reflective practice. SLOAC is about improving student learning.
As such, City stands by the American Association of Higher Education's (AAHE) “Nine Principles of Good Assessment”, the first principle being that "Assessment is not an end in itself but a vehicle for educational improvement." City is well aware that in any evaluation of student learning, the use of Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) is only one component of a general profile. They do not represent a comprehensive evaluation of faculty performance and/or student learning.
The Council for Higher Education (CHEA) Board of Directors' Statement of Mutual Responsibilities for Student Learning Outcomes (September 2003) prudently affirms that "judgments about quality are complex and must be based on a range of factors, including the purposes, resources, processes, and values of an institution…In applying these guidelines, it is imperative for accrediting agencies-- as well as the institutions and programs they accredit-- to avoid narrow definitions of student learning or any standardized measures of student achievement." It is also important to factor in societal, economic, health, and family issues which frequently impact student learning as much as what transpires in the classroom. It is imperative that we acknowledge that much of what goes on in the classroom cannot be subject to quantitative measurement solely. Qualitative assessment is just as important in measuring faculty performance and student learning as quantitative measurement.
San Diego City College also agrees with the mandate of the Academic Senate of California Community Colleges that a successful SLOAC must engage faculty and be faculty driven (ASCCC Resolution 2.01 F04 Insistence that SLO Design Originate with Local Faculty). The responsibility for teaching and learning lies primarily with faculty, who are well versed in their disciplines, invested in student learning, and knowledgeable about the principles of their respective and professional associations and licensing boards. Therefore, faculty must play a central role in developing explicit statements of what students will learn in the course, program, and institutional levels as well as interpreting and determining the implications of data. Secondly, the use of SLOs at the department or individual course level should not be prescriptive or intrusive on the principle of academic freedom (ASCCC Resolution 2.01 F03 Protection of Academic Freedom and Privacy of Students and Faculty). SLOs are not used to discount or replace the input of disciplinary experts.
The aforementioned does not obviate the importance of collaboration among faculty, classified staff, administrators, and students to achieve our institutional priorities. On the contrary, City recognizes that the Assessment Cycle of Student Learning and Administrative Outcomes "foster[s] wider improvement when representatives from across the educational community [student and administrative services staff, and students] are involved" (AAHE assessment principle #6). Clearly, discussion is enhanced with participation by all parties with a stake in improving student learning.
San Diego City College is also committed to institutionalizing the Student Learning and Administrative Unit Outcome Cycle. Information about learning outcomes is an integral part of decision-making, ranging from the curricular level to the planning and budget level. SLO or AUO data is never to be used to evaluate individual faculty or classified staff (ASCCC Resolution 2.01 F03 Protection of Academic Freedom and Privacy of Students and Faculty; American Federation of Teachers Article 15 of collective bargaining agreement). Assessment data is a component of the process but is decidedly not the sole determinant in the budgetary process. San Diego City College has an ongoing, consistent process of Program Review and Master Planning for the review, planning and allocation of resources. SLO data is not used to either reduce or suspend program funding.
Accordingly, San Diego City College affirms the AAHE's assessment principle #7: "The point of assessment is not to gather data and return 'results': it is a process that starts with the questions of decision-makers, that involves them in the gathering and interpreting of data, and that informs and helps guide continuous improvement." It is reaffirmed that many areas of instruction and learning cannot be measured and evaluated in a quantitative manner. Indeed, some disciplines and forms of instruction are best measured by qualitative evaluation and the judgment of disciplinary experts. The decisions about the development and application of the SLOAC are the collective responsibility of discipline faculty, staff and administration.
The responsibility for the interpretation and local implementation of the Student Learning and Administrative Unit Outcome Cycle shall remain within the purview of individual faculty/ department/ programs or student and administrative services units. As such, the SLOAC initiative serves as a means to optimize student learning.