2013 Sept Highlights

Once a month, we highlight departments and programs from across the college that have great things happening motivated by a desire to improve student learning.

September 2013

-- Dennis Piontkowski, Department Chair -- "...each assessment team will present its report at a department meeting. This will encourage a more thorough and inclusive discussion.."

The Math Department brainstorms for this semester's assessment of program SLOs on Flex Day, August 13.

WHERE WE’VE BEEN: Fall 2012-Spring 2013

Last fall, the Mathematics Department faculty formed teams with the task of developing, carrying out, and analyzing SLO assessments in 10 different courses. Every full-time faculty member was assigned to at least one team. Participation by part-time faculty was strongly encouraged and, in fact, many adjunct instructors willingly joined the effort. The teams worked under a set of assessment guidelines outlined by the department chair, but each team was free to develop its own assessment method. Most teams chose to assess two or three course SLOs through common final exam questions. All instructors (both full and part-time) teaching a course being assessed were required to participate in the assessment, not just those who were team members. In spring, the assessments were analyzed and each team posted a report on the department SLO website.

Also, last year, the Mathematics Department developed program-level SLOs for the mathematics discipline. These SLOs map to all mathematics courses. In addition, we created our AS-T degree in mathematics with its own set of program-level SLOs.

Finally, last spring, the department completed revisions of our oldest course outlines, so that all mathematics courses now have explicit SLOs and no course outline is over 6 years old.


Here is just a sample of highlights from last year’s assessments:

  • While the different modes of MATH E3 delivery have similar pass rates, significantly more students succeed in the “hybrid” model, classes in which each section is guided by a teaching team: one instructor working with several classified staff teaching assistants. The hybrid methodology is effective with large class size. This result will guide future scheduling decisions.
  • Even though the sole purpose of MATH 45 is to prepare students for transfer-level Statistics, a significant number of successful MATH 45 students don’t continue on in a Stats course. Would cohort models improve this situation? Nevertheless, MATH 45 students succeed at higher rates in Stats than MATH 60 students. The assessment team also noted that MATH 45 teachers should give more attention to boxplots and to improving students’ test-taking skills.
  • Preliminary data seems to indicate that MATH 60 students who are required to make use of an online homework service are more successful at achieving course LOs than students doing traditional-style homework. The assessment involved a combination of multiple choice and free-response questions. More study needs to be done in this area.

WHERE WE’RE GOING: Fall 2013-Spring 2014

This year, new teams have been formed to assess additional courses. At our August department meeting we talked about how we could improve our assessment process. It was decided that, instead of just posting a written report on the department website, each assessment team will present its report at a department meeting. This will encourage a more thorough and inclusive discussion that will help us implement changes and close the loop in the assessment cycle.

Another task for this year is to carry out assessments for both sets of our program-level SLOs. A large portion of our August department meeting was devoted to brainstorming how we could go about this.

This fall, we will also start a new cycle of course outline revision tied to completed SLO assessments. It’s time to update our 2008 outlines, currently our oldest.


Every mathematics course is now part of a six-year cycle of SLO assessment and course revision. The challenge has been to create a process that is embedded in the department culture and yet is also open to change and refinement as we learn more about how assessment can be used to improve our teaching.


-- David Stevenson, faculty -- "The programmatic SLO assessment ... suggested department needs that will be reflected in our upcoming Program Review."

Visual Media Design

The current push to fully embrace the use of Learning Outcomes at CCSF came as the School of Liberal Arts was finalizing the merger of the Graphic Communications Department and the Multimedia Studies Program. This was part of an effort to facilitate planning and collaboration between two related areas of study that served the same student population. In planning for this merger, data was collected on local labor markets and academic transfer policies, and working professionals were consulted in a number of industry advisory sessions. In a project funded through the Perkins Student Success Initiative, data from almost 600 current and alumni students was collected via surveys and focus groups. 

This new department, Visual Media Design, prepares students to work as graphic designers for screen and print, game designers, web developers, illustrators and digital production artists. We welcome this opportunity to share our SLO process with all of you; it is our hope that other departments, especially those in related disciplines, will learn from our experience and methods, and share their successes with us.

Course Assessments

Every course in our department engages in SLO assessment in each academic semester. Early on we established that each SLO would be measured using direct assessment tools providing numerical data that could be easily evaluated and compared. Many of our instructors supplement these direct assessments with student surveys and questionnaires.

In addition to reporting our results to CCSF, we designed an internal SLO reporting form that allows us to collect and review assessments for each semester. These forms aggregate the numerical data and also allow our instructors to reflect on their findings and make suggestions about course improvements. This data is published on our website, and discussed with all instructors at Flex Day events. These discussions allow us to share our findings, answer questions and to refine our process.

Program Assessments

As part of the merger of Graphic Communications and Multimedia Studies, we have spent the last year updating and restructuring our degree and certificate offerings. Our program-level objectives are assessed directly through a review of student portfolios undertaken by all the full-time faculty at the end of each Spring semester. This is supplemented with data from student surveys, focus groups, industry advisory sessions and alumni outreach.

Positive Results

Getting this all off the ground has been a lot of work, but our department can point to a number of positive results that justify the effort. First and foremost is the dialogue that has been created among all our instructors about the effectiveness of our courses and programs: many course-level improvements have been on the table at Flex Day and in informal conversations that take place throughout the semester. In Fall 13, the department is also sponsoring bi-weekly SLO drop-in sessions that provide faculty with an opportunity to discuss SLO process and results.

The programmatic SLO assessment in Spring specifically gave us the opportunity to test some of the newly rewritten PSLOs, and it suggested department needs that will be reflected in our upcoming Program Review. The assessment findings affirmed the need for many of the curricular changes made in the newly revised certificates and gave us valuable insights for rewriting many outlines in the coming year. While we plan to refine our portfolio assessment process—the first time was especially valuable in bringing all the FT faculty together to review and discuss the content and methodology of our student projects and capstone experiences.

The review of student portfolios in particular, was revealing. It became apparent that changes to the process/deliverables and guidelines for content for projects would strengthen the outcomes and better prepare students for employment or transfer. At our Fall 13 Flex Day we introduced a more structured framework for project-based work. We plan to refine this through discussion during the semester and present final guidelines for adoption in Spring.

Looking forward, we hope to have all our regular courses at level five [closed loop] by the end of Spring 2014. If you would like more information about our process and findings, please review the summary on our SLO web page or contact our Department Chair, Lorraine Leber at lleber@ccsf.edu.

(See more images of our process.)


Students participating in the joint lab exercise. (RN & DMI)

Diagnostic Medical Imaging & Registered Nursing

Kyle Thornton, Chair, Radiologic Sciences Department -- "We carried out our first inter-professional lab activity."

The DMI and RN programs carried out their first inter-professional lab activity. This activity took place during a simulation lab for Nursing 56: Advanced Medical-Surgical Nursing. The event was a simulated trauma in which a patient had experienced an open femoral fracture. As RN students carried out their duties to stabilize the patient, DMI students came in with a mobile X-ray machine to perform a mock exam to image the femur and chest. 

The RN and DMI students executed their duties quite well. In general, the interaction between the two groups of students was good. Communication between the groups could use some improvement. During the feedback session, Erin Cunningham provided some excellent suggestions to improve communication, such as one-way loop, making sure there is eye contact with whom one is communicating. Also, she suggested to be clear who is in charge and communicate primarily with that individual.

Both departments have been planning this event for some time. Erin Cunningham and Maureen Noonan were very instrumental in making it happen. Inter-disciplinary/professional education is in the beginning stages, and there is great potential to provide excellent learning opportunities. Activities such as these serve to strengthen the knowledge and skill level of both groups. 

The outcomes addressed by activities such as these include: effective communication; applying patient management theories and techniques to clinical practice; radiation safety; safe operation of equipment. Providing RN and DMI students educational opportunities to work together also increases the potential to strengthen patient safety and management outcomes in the clinical setting.

Just another one of the great things going on at CCSF.

FOLLOW UP: the day after our trauma simulation exercise, a student from the DMI cohort actually participated in obtaining images of a fractured femur on a trauma patient at San Francisco General. Obtaining images on a trauma patient is one of the clinical objectives for the cohort that participated in the original exercise. Though he was merely observing and assisting SFGH imaging personnel, the student felt our exercise made him better equipped and prepared to take part in the actual process. He said, "It was just like the simulation on Monday." I find this very validating, and am proud that the RN and Radiologic Sciences departments work so well together to provide excellent educational opportunities that help equip our graduates to provide superior patient care.