The NSCC Student Success Plan defines learning outcomes and assesses student achievement of those outcomes in General Education.
General Education outcomes at NSCC are defined by faculty representatives from each academic division. These outcomes reflect expectations of the knowledge, skills, values, and beliefs to be acquired by all graduates of our institution and are embedded across our curriculum in all degree and certificate programs. Each outcome is clearly defined by measurable criteria used by faculty to assess student achievement of the outcome.
General Education Outcomes
- Critical thinking skills, through comprehending the implications of problems, drawing on appropriate evidence, and constructing well-reasoned conclusions.
- Communication skills, through reading comprehension and effective writing.
- Computation skills, through performance of basic algebraic manipulations and problem-solving.
- Teamwork skills, through interacting constructively with others to accomplish goals.
Assessment of General Education Outcomes
NSCC faculty have worked to identify reliable and valid assessment tools for measuring student achievement of General Education outcomes. The college is currently assessing these outcomes by means of two key methods: the administration of the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency (CAAP) and the evaluation of student-created e-portfolios.
Administered each year to selected students who have completed the College Core Curriculum, the CAAP provides measures of General Education learning outcomes across three dimensions:
- Outcomes Measurement: Comparison of CAAP results to established local and national performance benchmarks to assess achievement of General Education learning outcomes, monitor change in student performance over time, and implement improvement programs
- Pre- and Post-Core Curriculum: Comparison of CAAP scores (post-Core Curriculum completion) to COMPASS scores (pre-enrollment at NSCC) to measure the value added by the NSCC Core Curriculum to student learning
- Cross-Institutional: Comparison of CAAP results of NSCC students with those of students from other institutions.
Participating students take one of six tests:
- Writing Skills Test—measures students’ understanding of the conventions of standard written English, including usage/mechanics and rhetorical skills
- Mathematics Test—measures students’ mathematical skills, emphasizing quantitative reasoning rather than the memorization of formulas, with content in algebra, coordinate geometry, college algebra, and trigonometry
- Reading Test—measures reading comprehension referring and reasoning skills, with reading passages from the subject areas of Arts/Literature and Social Studies/Sciences
- Science Test—measures students’ knowledge and skills in science, with subjects drawn from biology, chemistry, physics, and the physical sciences
- Critical Thinking Test—measures students’ skills in analyzing, evaluating, and extending arguments
- Writing Essay—designed to demonstrate a student’s level of performance in the writing skills commonly taught in college-level writing courses and required in upper-division college work
Faculty are currently analyzing how best to use CAAP results to provide evidence that General Education objectives are being met, to document change in students’ performance levels from one educational point to another, and to compare performance gains across general education instructional programs.
Students who entered NSCC in fall 2003 and later are required to make submissions to an electronic portfolio in order to complete their degrees. The e- portfolio is a collection of student writing which allows the college to evaluate how well it is fulfilling its goals of teaching students to write and to think critically. Sample student writing in portfolios demonstrates the degree to which Associate degree graduates of NSCC are able to perform the learning outcomes central to the college curriculum, as well as the growth of students’ skills as they move through the curriculum. Individual students make submissions to the portfolio database so that the college can examine data on its students as a group.
In order to fulfill the portfolio requirement for graduation, each student’s e-portfolio must include the following:
- The argument paper from English 111
- The research paper from English 112
- A writing assignment from a Humanities core course most likely to demonstrate critical thinking skills.
- A writing assignment from a Social Sciences core course most likely to demonstrate critical thinking skills.
- A writing assignment which represents, in the student’s opinion, his or her best writing and critical thinking performance from late in the program (preferably the final semester) and not duplicating other portfolio submissions.
- A writing assignment from the student’s technical program (or, for an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science student, from the intended area of study upon transfer), which demonstrates application of writing and critical thinking skills and does not duplicate other portfolio submissions.
- Any other assignment designated by the student’s specific degree program.
Sample portfolio submissions are reviewed by an outside evaluator (or team of evaluators) in coordination with the composition faculty. Rubrics defining desired standards for writing and critical thinking are used to evaluate the sample portfolios. Students will meet the portfolio requirement for graduation as long as they make the required submissions of writing, even if the writing does not meet the desired standards for writing or critical thinking. The portfolio is not designed to assess individual students, but to collect assessment data on NSCC students as a group.
The results of e-portfolio evaluations are intended to provide evidence that the General Education objectives of writing and critical thinking are being met; however, system errors in the current e-portfolio process have been identified. Faculty are currently considering recommendations for improvement to the e-portfolio syste