By Natasha Nellis, Chief Copy Editor

Students all know the first day routine — go to class, listen to the professor go over the syllabus, discover what the goals are for the quarter — these goals are there for a reason, beyond telling a student what is expected of them. It also serves as the foundation for determining whether or not the course is effective.

Last year, EWU applied and was able to maintain accreditation, with a few caveats put into place by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), the largest being a recommendation for a better program assessment plan.

It is from assessment plans that classroom goals are born. Whether or not a student body reaches those goals determines the usefulness of a course in higher education and whether or not it is necessary for students to take.

Through the recommendation of the NWCCU, the Faculty Senate, in conjunction with the Assessment Committee (AC), devised an assessment plan to determine the effectiveness of courses taught at EWU and whether or not students are learning what they need to.

Dr. Jackie Coomes, faculty senate president and professor of mathematics education, said the  EWU Assessment Committee Assessment Plan (EACAP) is meant for the general education core requirements (GECRs).

“The purpose of assessment is to improve,” said Dr. Coomes. “Every course should be satisfying goals.”

According to page eight of the EWU Assessment Committee report, GECRs are being updated to focus more on critical thinking, the freshman experience and to lower the amount of required credits.

“[The] assessment is not grading students nor evaluating faculty,” according to the EACAP. “It’s critically examining our curriculum and pedagogy to make sure that students are learning what we want them to be learning.”  

The kind of assessment is determined by the course and department.

“Faculty and programs have the autonomy to design a program assessment plan that enables them to investigate student learning in ways that help inform their pedagogies and curriculum,” according to the EACAP.

Dr. Coomes said this was because no one assessment plan is able to fully evaluate the effectiveness of a course; an assessment plan for one of her math classes would not be beneficial in assessing an English course because they are not taught the same way and there are different expectations.

“One important aspect of assessment needs to be continuous improvement of student performance on the SLOs (Student Learning Outcomes), rather than simply demonstrating a certain level of proficiency,” according to the EACAP.

Dr. Coomes said the idea is that students can build off of what they learn from their GECRs and that they are necessary for students to have a foundation of information. If the GECRs are not giving students that, they are not fulfilling their purpose.

All programs at EWU must have a program assessment plan that is approved by faculty within the program, the college of a given program and the University Assessment Committee in collaboration with the Provost’s Office, according to the EACAP.  

Programs report results annually on their assessment activities and every five to seven years a comprehensive report is submitted to the committee to review and determine whether or not the course is fulfilling requirements.

Program assessment plans were due to Helen Bergland, Ph.D. and the respective deans of their programs by September 15, 2016. Moving forward, each plan will be critically reviewed, and changes will be suggested before moving to the next stage.