2013 March 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.

March 2013

-- Janey Skinner, faculty -- "Faculty have posted over 60 curricula resources including syllabi, course assignments and grading rubrics to a shared directory."

The Link Center, a student resource room in the Health Education Department, and 2 students working there.

There have been a number of benefits to SLO assessment for our department, including rich discussion of how we know what the students know, sharing of pedagogical tools, and revision of course outlines and assignments as a result. Faculty have posted over 60 curricula resources including syllabi, course assignments and grading rubrics to a shared directory.

Two tools that have been helpful in our department have been Excel spreadsheet templates – one to correlate course assignments to course-level SLOs, and another to correlate course SLOs to program-level SLOs in the CTE programs and the department major. Having a roughly uniform method of reporting SLO attainment has made it easier for us discuss and share what we learn from the SLO process. Having a designated point-person for SLO questions in the department has also been helpful.

For the last two years, we have had a committee that has actively looked at student achievement through the lens of equity. We consider this a part of our departmental SLO assessment plan. The Health Education (HED) Student Equity Committee analyzed retention and GPA data for 3 ethnic/racial groups that have lower overall rates of student success than white students:  African American, Latino/Hispanic, and Pacific Islander students. We noticed that these three groups, and in general students of color, have higher rates of achievement in the HED than at CCSF overall. HED Faculty engaged in a robust discussion about available student success data and decided to conduct additional research into specific courses in which students of color performed higher than the department average (in terms of retention and GPA). Faculty wanted to learn what factors might be responsible for the enhanced achievement of students of color. Research included additional surveys with students from selected classes and interviews with department faculty. Results were summarized and shared in the Department Flex Day meeting, with a lively discussion of best classroom practices. A report was sent to all department faculty. Among the findings of our HED Student Equity Committee were that classes that produced more equitable results in terms of GPA and retention were ones that emphasized practices like the following:

  • Run class like a community – lots of individual encouragement
  • Relate material to real life and real work
  • Use participatory pedagogy – skills-based curriculum
  • Maintain high expectations with high level of support
  • Make referrals to learning assistance center and other resources on campus
  • Scaffold assignments, one building on another, with complex tasks broken down

In general, cohorted programs and courses with prerequisites (where students may know one another or have connections to the material from previous courses) also showed higher student retention and GPA. One notable success in our department has been the Metro Academy of Health, which was recently assessed by an outside evaluator; the evaluation showed that students in Metro were over 50% more likely to have a positive outcome (transfer, degree, or persist) than a comparison group, and 9 times more likely than the comparison group to be transfer-ready after 2 years in Metro. 

-- Tracy Burt, faculty -- "We were determined to turn the SLO ‘crisis’ into an opportunity to up our game."

Child Development SLO Work

In Fall 2012, we formed a Child Development SLO Team with four CDEV faculty. We were determined to turn the SLO ‘crisis’ into an opportunity to up our game. We knew that our department already had a lot of strengths: High participation in professional development, decent student achievement rates, strong working relationships. Could we build on our strengths to make us better?

We planned a series of activities and developed a number of resources for our faculty with the goals of:

  1. Honoring and acknowledging the dedication and commitment of our faculty—we had already been assessing SLOs in an ongoing fashion, but we needed to get better at documenting our work and develop a more coordinated effort.
  2. Clarifying what had happened from a larger perspective (we had to do six years of work in 6 weeks, and our learning curve might be a little steep, but it would get less so over time).
  3. Engaging faculty in brainstorming about what we already did well, starting with diverse and varied forms of assessment.
  4. Framing the SLO process as an opportunity to up our game, which after all is why we are all here in the first place—to facilitate student learning and success.
  5. Defining roles and responsibilities as we moved forward.

On Flex Day we brainstormed as a department about different methods of assessment and solicited feedback on a course-level SLO survey that everyone in the department would administer to their students at the midterm and the final.  

The SLO survey was individualized for each course offered Fall 2012 to assess student perception of 1-to-3 SLOs, define one key term, and assess student perception of the effectiveness of the variety of teaching methods used in a course. Students filled out the survey at the midterm so we could get a sense of where students were and then again at the final. Final results were tallied and the data are being discussed in course- and program-groupings throughout this semester. 100% of our courses administered the survey.

Many faculty reported positive outcomes from using the survey. First, faculty gained awareness about SLOs and further integrated SLOs into assignments, clarified assignment expectations, increased the variety of teaching methods they used, added more small group time, clarified terms and phrases, created new materials, developed more methods for engaging with reading assignments, and found new videos and reading materials to share with students (a partial list). Faculty shared what they were learning about this process in written form, by turning in a cover sheet at the end of the semester, and also verbally in course-level meetings.

In addition to increased focus and integration of SLOs in our courses, we also experienced some unexpected positive outcomes. Increased dialogue among faculty inspired more creativity and we shared more resources with each other. The positive feedback from students inspired many faculty and reinvigorated their love of teaching.  And finally, we collectively gained increased comfort with technology—over 20 faculty joined Dropbox, mastered its use, and developed other various technological skills.

- Grace Hom – Transfer Center Director – “Life in the SLO Lane”

From left: Transfer Center, College Fair, AA-T Bulletin Board

The Transfer Center’s Program Reviews have consistently included SLOs. At the beginning of each new academic year, we chose an SLO from the list to focus on, developed and administered a survey to students. Results were tallied up, some discussion would happen at a department meeting, a brief report was written up, and that would conclude work on that particular SLO.

What’s different now? Last Fall, SLO Guru, Dr. Kathleen Mitchell, gently and patiently guided counselors to a greater understanding and appreciation for SLOs. Kathleen provided an “aha” moment for us when she explained that our SLO could be a single activity we were engaged in, and the assessment could be as uncomplicated as a 6-item Pre & Post Test. We also learned to incorporate the missing element in our earlier attempts with SLOs, and to simultaneously value its worth. So now we’re doin’ the RD, aka: ROBUST DIALOG that includes discussion of the Research data from the assessments which helps us Develop ways we can reach our goal to deliver helpful information and have students leave our offices or workshops with 100% clarity. Because assessment has been ongoing for many years, our program is at Sustainable Continuous Quality.

Examples of Program SLOs: Students will be able to:

Complete a Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) application after learning of the minimum course requirements, GPA thresholds, deadlines, and campus specific requirements. (CCSF TAG applications submitted each year average at 260).

Complete a CSU Admission Application or UC Admission Application after learning of the process including the application websites, deadlines, minimum transfer eligibility requirements, academic reporting requirements, and the university notification timeline. (CCSF has on average about 1400 students who transfer to CSU/UC annually.  The Transfer Center directly assists approximately 300 students with their applications.)

What did we learn?

Our workshops offer students a similar quality of information as the one-to-one sessions with a counselor. Through the survey results and our observations, this can be attributed to the consistency of information presented to students. The Transfer Center will offer more workshops to fill the gap produced by the shortage of available counseling appointments and limited Express Counseling hours.

An assessment for the classroom presentation to the ENGN 10A class on the topic of general transfer information indicated that at the conclusion of the presentation, there was as much as a 52% increase in the level of understanding of transfer information. We will discuss how we can improve on these presentations to get closer to our goal of 100% clarity for the students.

Future Plans: 

  • We observed a core set of questions students had about TAG. Therefore, we are developing a TAG FAQ and a university-application FAQ for students.
  • As a result of feedback from a student focus group, we will attempt to conduct shorter presentations in workshops so that more time can be tacked on to provide Q&A with a Transfer Counselor either in small groups or one-to-one.
  • This Spring ’13, we will repeat our SLO collaboration with the ENGN 10A class and Professor Hitesh Soneji. The students will complete the survey via the class website (Pre Test) before coming to class to hear the presentation. By doing this, we are hoping that students will have some preparation of the content of the presentation and have questions ready, so that they can leave the event with new or clarified information. 
  • The Associate Degree for Transfer (AA-T or AS-T) became available to CCSF students in Spring 2012. The Transfer Center is charged with the responsibility to process these graduation petitions. That term, two majors were available and 27 petitions were processed. In Spring 2013, five majors were available and 47 petitions were processed. (If we include the 9 petitions that were processed in Fall ’12, the total is 56 petitions). We have established collaborative relationships with our Admissions & Records Office, our Articulation Officer and the Admissions Office at San Francisco State University, to facilitate the timely processing of these AA-T petitions. A trend we are seeing is that in just one year, the number of petitions processed has doubled, such that in the coming year, especially as more majors are added, we anticipate a big increase in student interest in these degrees. Therefore there will be a need to provide cross training of other counselors to accommodate the processing of petitions and to strengthen our collaborative efforts.