These Guidelines provide instructions for complying with UCF’s Policies and Procedures for Implementing Academic Learning Compacts in ways that are consistent with the requirements articulated in Policy Guideline #PG 05.02.15 issued by the Chancellor of the State University System.
What are ALCs and why are we doing them? In recent years, there has been increased emphasis on the identification and assessment of core student learning outcomes in higher education. The Florida Board of Governors (BOG) has articulated the importance of student achievement in its strategic planning and accountability processes. Simultaneously, the Board has placed more emphasis on institutional accountability while permitting campus-level decisions about implementation details.
Accordingly, the Board determined in 2005 that universities will develop Academic Learning Compacts and related processes to ensure student achievement in baccalaureate degree programs in the State University System. These Compacts include learning objectives in three areas (communication, critical thinking, and knowledge and skills of the discipline,), and are made readily available to prospective and enrolled students.
At UCF, the BOG mandate is met by incorporating the Academic Learning Compacts (ALCs) into the existing Institutional Effectiveness (IE) Assessment process. UCF’s assessment efforts measure and document student learning outcomes, a process that ensures continuous program improvement. Where appropriate, the ALCs will use learning outcomes from discipline accreditation standards to avoid unnecessary duplication. By including the ALC in our IE process we ensure that each program is documenting its effectiveness in each of the three required areas. The granting of a degree will certify that each baccalaureate graduate has completed a program with clearly articulated core student learning expectations and corresponding robust and effective assessment mechanisms.
When is it due? Program faculty will participate in the normal assessment tasks and follow the usual time lines, through the established processes and committees - the Divisional Review Committees and University Assessment Committee.
Guidelines for Core Student Learning Outcomes Required for the ALCs
The Academic Learning Compact for each baccalaureate degree program will include concise statements of core learning outcomes that are requirements for that program. They will identify the corresponding assessment processes used to measure student achievement on each of the core student learning outcomes for the program. These statements will articulate, at minimum, the communication skills, critical thinking skills, and content/discipline knowledge and skills appropriate for students who will receive a baccalaureate degree from that program. Student learning outcomes will be assessed annually. For general guidelines on the assessment process and establishing an assessment plan, the Assessment Handbook is available electronically. In addition, technical assistance is available through the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning (FCTL) and Operational Excellence and Assessment Support (OEAS). In relation to the three areas of the ALC, the following definitions may help UCF’s department chairs, program directors, and faculty when developing outcome statements appropriate for each baccalaureate degree program. Each definition also provides suggestions for some assessment processes that may be used to measure student achievement.
"Communication skills" usually involve assessment of a student’s written communication, oral communication, or both. However, faculty in some programs may expect their majors to develop communication skills using other media or a combination of media (e.g., an artistic product, an audiovisual presentation, a graphical representation of information, etc.). Some programs may promote team-oriented, collaborative skills that require assessment of groups rather than individual students.
Academic Learning Compacts for each baccalaureate degree program should include concise, measurable, and discipline-specific statements of communication skills. Some general categories of communication skills are listed and below.
Written communication: Students will produce writing that is informative, analytical, persuasive, etc., using an appropriate style and demonstrating appropriate research. Writing will be grammatically correct, well-organized, and properly formatted for the purpose of the assignment and the discipline at a level appropriate for the awarding of a baccalaureate degree. These skills are usually assessed via individual paper assignments or essays where instructors assess the quality of written expression.
Oral communication: Students will prepare and deliver informative and/or persuasive oral presentations that attend to the audience and are well-organized at a level appropriate for the awarding of a baccalaureate degree. These skills are usually assessed via individual oral presentations in a classroom setting, although sometimes instructors and/or supervisors may assess oral communication across time (e.g., during classroom discussions or at an internship site).
Other forms of communication: Students will prepare and demonstrate other types of discipline-specific communication (e.g., a musical performance, theatrical performance, or art exhibit; a visual, audiovisual, or graphical product) at a level appropriate for the awarding of a baccalaureate degree. These skills are usually assessed via classroom projects, juried performances, or portfolios.
Team/Collaborative communication: Students will demonstrate team-oriented, collaborative skills in which they contribute to group products at a level appropriate for the awarding of a baccalaureate degree. These skills are usually assessed via group papers or presentations and may involve peer-assessment (e.g., group members assess each other), assessment by audience members (e.g., an instructor, supervisor, or peer), or both.
Critical thinking skills
Critical thinking skills should be aligned to each discipline, including for example the discipline’s ways of knowing, standards of evidence, or approaches to argumentation or reasoning. These skills are often associated with analysis, synthesis, or evaluation. The FCTL and OEAS are available to assist faculty in specifying clear critical thinking outcomes that fit the discipline-specific expectations of an academic program.
Academic Learning Compacts for each baccalaureate degree program should include one or more concise, measurable, and discipline-specific statements of critical thinking skills. Some categories of critical thinking skills are:
Analytical skills: Students will analyze, evaluate, compare/contrast or judge discipline-specific theories, issues, events, or other content at a level appropriate for the awarding of a baccalaureate degree. These skills are usually assessed through examining the quality of argument in a student essay, oral presentation, or formal report.
Creative skills: Students will create a product by synthesizing knowledge from a discipline (e.g., create a new piece of art, interpret a piece of music in a personal and appropriate way, develop a new theory or research proposal) at a level appropriate for the awarding of a baccalaureate degree. These skills are usually assessed by an instructor or supervisor examining a student product for the quality of its synthesis of current knowledge into a new product.
Practical skills: Students will put into practice their knowledge and skills within a discipline (e.g., developing a business proposal or lesson plan, writing a grant) at a level appropriate for the awarding of a baccalaureate degree. These skills are assessed ideally by examining an authentic product the student employs in an appropriate setting (e.g., a student teacher delivering a lesson, an intern proposing a plan to a supervisor); they may also be assessed via in-class projects in which students propose practical solutions based on their understanding of the discipline (e.g., case study analysis).
Content/Discipline Knowledge and Skills
"Content/Discipline knowledge, skills, values, and behaviors" may include both declarative knowledge ("knowing that") and procedural knowledge ("knowing how") specific to a discipline.
Academic Learning Compacts for each baccalaureate degree program should include concise, measurable, and discipline-specific statements of content/discipline knowledge and skills. Some categories of knowledge that can be considered are:
Declarative knowledge: Students will demonstrate knowledge of the vocabulary, history, theories or concepts specific to the discipline and appropriate for the awarding of a baccalaureate degree. Skills related to declarative knowledge are usually assessed via in-class or standardized tests, typically in an objective (multiple-choice; short answer) format.
Procedural knowledge: Research skills: Students will demonstrate knowledge of the procedures involved in discipline-specific research (e.g., idea generation, literature review, data collection, reporting) appropriate for the awarding of a baccalaureate degree. These skills are usually assessed via a research report, research project, or thesis.
Procedural knowledge: Technical skills: Students will demonstrate technical skills related to the discipline (e.g., preparation of a business report or lesson plan, mastery of a musical instrument, fluency in a foreign language, data analysis, and solution of technical problems) appropriate for the awarding of a baccalaureate degree. These skills are usually assessed via an in-class project (e.g., case study, paper), observation (e.g., juried performance), or portfolio.
Guidelines for Assessment Processes Used to Measure Student Achievement
Academic Learning Compacts for each baccalaureate degree program will identify the assessment processes used to measure student achievement on each of the core student learning outcomes for the program. These assessment processes will specify all of the following: (a) the required courses or other academic equivalents through which all students pursuing the baccalaureate degree are assessed on each outcome, (b) the assessments used in those courses or academic equivalents that correspond to each outcome, and (c) the standards used during the assessments to determine if student work matches the expectations articulated for each outcome. UCF’s faculty, department chairs and program directors will refer to the following guidelines when developing statements of the assessment processes appropriate for each baccalaureate degree program.
There are many kinds of assessment options. The best assessments are direct measures of student learning. Direct measures may include, but are not limited to:
- standardized exams
- locally developed exams
- embedded questions
- external examiner
- oral exams
- rubrics designed to address the specific ALC areas
- portfolios (with rubrics)
- behavioral observations
- project evaluations
- performance appraisals
Indirect measures, such as surveys, can be used to add students' perception of what they have learned to the information obtained from direct measures of student learning. Indirect measures must not be used without direct measures for assessing student learning outcomes.
Guidelines for Review Processes for Refining Components of the Academic Learning Compact
Academic Learning Compacts as part of the IE effort are reviewed by college Divisional Review Committees and the University Assessment Committee each year. These groups make suggestions for changes, recommend revisions, and evaluate each program’s efforts. In addition, as is the current practice with IE Assessment plans, faculty, department chairs and program directors will conduct periodic review for the purpose of refining the Academic Learning Compact, the assessment process, and the evaluation systems, as appropriate. ALCs may be revised annually through the IE Assessment process.
The Program Review process provides an additional opportunity to evaluate the program's Academic Learning Compact. When a program conducts a Program Review, their external consultant will be asked to review the program’s Academic Learning Compact in terms of its appropriateness for the program.