WSCUC's Community of Practice for Advancing Learning Outcomes Visibility

Starting in Spring 2017, with funding from Lumina Foundation, WSCUC is offering institutions an opportunity to participate in a free online Community of Practice to lend support, guidance, and consulting around projects related to assessing student learning and demonstrating visibility of that learning. Participating institutions will not only be able to gain support as they implement their own projects, but will also develop a collection of good practices, resources, and guides to share, both regionally and nationally.

What are the benefits for participating institutions?

Through the Community of Practice, institutions will have great opportunities, including:

  • Implementing student learning assessment projects to meet institutional needs that are informed by national and regional thought leadership, knowledge generation, capacity building, and resource sharing within the Community of Practice (CoP). 
  • Engaging with expert consultants to help guide their institutional projects and highlight best practices. Regional and national content and/or assessment experts who can provide advice, guidance, and resources are paid for as part of the grant. 
  • Building networks and support among participants in the CoP, with the intention of broad-based engagement across the region over time. 
  • Receiving WSCUC support, guidance, and input from a dedicated facilitator of the CoP. 
  • Building and implementing sustainable assessment practices to support student learning and accreditation requirements.

Additional Information - Community of Practice

  • Institutions must submit applications to participate by February 15, 2017 
  • Institutions will be notified of participation selection around March 1, 2017 
  • The online Community of Practice will launch around March 15, 2017 
  • First CoP in-person convening will be on Tuesday April 18, 2017 from 1pm – 5pm in San Diego (the day prior to ARC). This in-person meeting, while encouraged, is completely optional.

While the total potential timeframe for the project is March 2017 through August 2019, institutions may exit the CoP once projects are deemed complete by the institutions. Additionally, new institutions/cohorts will be invited to submit applications to join the CoP on a periodic basis.

Institutions must submit applications to participate by February 15, 2017

Institutions will be notified of participation selection around March 1, 2017

The online Community of Practice will launch around March 15, 2017

First CoP in-person convening will be on Tuesday April 18, 2017 from 1pm – 5pm in San Diego (the day prior to ARC). This in-person meeting, while encouraged, is completely optional.

WSCUC will seek a diverse representation of institutions in creating the Community of Practice in terms of institutional type (public, private, non-profit, for-profit, faith-based, comprehensive, single-focus, etc.).
  • Institutions need to be in candidacy status or accredited by WSCUC.
  • Institutions need to identify a committed institutional team to participate, consisting of at least two people, at least one of which must be a faculty member.

Institutions seeking to participate will need to commit to:

  • Creating and implementing a student learning assessment visibility project to developed, implemented, and shared within the Community of Practice;
  • Experimenting with adopting or adapting existing frameworks, models, and resources to promote alignment and coordination of work across institutions;
  • Sharing strategies, resources, and examples broadly within and outside of the WSCUC community;
  • Interacting regularly in virtual Community of Practice discussions and activities.

This project is supported by a grant from Lumina Foundation. The grant covers expenses for external consultants, the dedicated WSCUC facilitator, and technology to support the Community of Practice. Additionally, external facilitators and consultants, venue costs, and food for the optional in-person convenings will be covered by the grant.

Institutions will be responsible for project-related implementation costs/personnel/resources and any travel costs related to the optional in-person convenings. Two optional in-person convenings will be offered annually (one of which will be a part of the annual Academic Resource Conference). These meetings will be designed for CoP support, resources, networking, learning from mentors, etc. Participation in these convenings is highly recommended but not required to participate in the Community of Practice.

Through the Community of Practice, WSCUC will curate and disseminate a collection of institutional learning outcomes assessment and accreditation resources to further support the requirements of the 2013 Handbook of Accreditation, including:

  • Guidelines/resources for institutions regarding actionable learning outcomes assessment data collection and analysis models aligned to 21st century higher educational opportunities;
  • Guidelines/resources for institutions regarding making evidence of student learning/learning outcomes assessment results visible;
  • A curated collection of institutional resources, samples, and exemplars;
  • Guidelines/resources for peer review committees, teams, and the Commission for evaluating institutional reports vis-à-vis the 2013 Handbook requirements;
  • White papers or other contributions to national initiatives in this area, including presentations at national conferences and contributions to the NILOA assessment resource library.

Institutions may identify projects that are small or large in scope and may be short or long-term. Projects should be focused on student learning assessment and making learning results visible, and may relate to areas such as:

  • Assessment of one or more of the WSCUCs’ Five Core Competencies
  • Assuring degree quality
  • General education assessment
  • Departmental or programmatic assessment efforts
  • Co-curricular assessment
  • Developing campus infrastructure for sustainable assessment processes
  • Quality and rigor of graduate-level education
  • Developing a faculty (or administrative) development program around learning assessment and visibility
  • “Closing the Loop” initiatives
  • Making assessment processes meaningful and visible to a variety of internal and external stakeholders
  • Including students in assessment processes
  • Developing processes/policies that demonstrate evidence that supports institutional commitment to sustained best practices around student learning assessment

WSCUC highly recommends projects that address assessment capacity-building specifically related to several requirements of the 2013 Handbook of Accreditation, such as:

  1. Transparent Evidence of Student Learning: CFR 1.2
  2. The Five Core Competencies / Undergraduate Education: CFR  2.2a
  3. Graduate Program Learning Outcomes: CFR 2.2b
  4. Faculty Engagement in and Responsibility for Assessment: CFR 2.4
  5. Demonstrating Student Achievement: CFR 2.6
  6. Program Review: CFR 2.7
  7. Quality Assurance: CFR 4.1

Projects may also relate to three components of the Institutional Self-Study and Accreditation Report that collectively ask institutions to report on their processes for assessing student learning and evidence of student learning:

  • Degree Programs: Meaning, Quality, and Integrity of Degrees
  • Educational Quality: Student Learning, Core Competencies, and Standards of Performance at Graduation
  • Student Success: Student Learning, Retention, and Graduation

Institutions may elect to begin new projects or work on projects that are already in progress, so long as they can participate in the CoP and are willing to share resources, guides, tools, etc. related to the project. Additionally, projects that are multi-institutional and collaborative in nature are also welcome.

Nationally, the call for visibility of student learning is in the spotlight (see NILOA’s May 2016 policy statement Why Documenting Student Learning Matters). As a regional accreditor, WSCUC seeks to help assure various stakeholders in higher education (policy makers, parents, the general public, and students themselves) that higher education institutions in the region are delivering on their promises to students regarding learning outcomes. Institutions cannot do this effectively without making students’ learning visible.

With funding from Lumina Foundation over a three-year period, WSCUC will develop and facilitate a Community of Practice (CoP) comprised of WSCUC institutions in order to increase leadership for and institutional capacity in learning outcomes assessment visibility. Institutions, through their participation, will receive consulting and network support in the process of implementing organizational projects.

The knowledge, strategies, and approaches generated from institutional projects associated with the CoP will result in a rich collection of institutional and accreditation process resources, including exemplars and learning guides, for the WSCUC region – and nationally – around aligning and assessing student learning outcomes per the 2013 Handbook of Accreditation, visibility of evidence, and using evidence for improvement.

The intended outcomes of the project are:

Outcome 1: Learning Outcomes Capacity-Building: To further develop WSCUC’s regional capacity and national leadership in providing evidence of student learning as one crucial component of student achievement. The key focus here will be on using learning outcomes assessment results to support authentic student learning and/or institutional improvement per the 2013 Handbook of Accreditation.

Outcome 2: Improved Learning Outcomes Visibility: To support WSCUC institutions in making good evidence of student learning more visible and accessible to a general public and various stakeholders.

Outcome 3: Quality Assurance/Accreditation Resource Development, Curation, and Dissemination: To develop a curated collection of accreditation process resources, including exemplars and learning guides, for the WSCUC region -- and nationally -- around aligning and assessing student learning outcomes per the Standards or Accreditation, the visibility of evidence, and using evidence for improvement.

See also: Why Documenting Student Learning Matters: http://www.learningoutcomesassessment.org/documents/NILOA_policy_statement.pdf

“A community of practice is a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wegner-Traynor). Additionally, [a Community] of Practice revolves around:

The domain: members are brought together by a learning need they share (whether this shared learning need is explicit or not and whether learning is the motivation for their coming together or a by-product of it)

The community: their collective learning becomes a bond among them over time (experienced in various ways and thus not a source of homogeneity)

The practice: their interactions produce resources that affect their practice (whether they engage in actual practice together or separately).

(from: http://wenger-trayner.com/resources/what-is-a-community-of-practice/)

The CoP will be housed within a Blackboard online course site; participants may be divided into smaller groups for discussions or resource-sharing based primarily on institutional project topics. The exact size of each small group will depend upon the number of participants and institutions working on similar topics; the entire CoP will not exceed participants from 15-30 institutions at any given time.