Continuous Improvement System

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Walden is dedicated to creating and sustaining a “culture of evidence” in which data about achievements in student learning and the experiences that support student learning are continuously collected, analyzed, and shared for the purpose of continuous program improvement. Responsibility for assessment of student learning experiences is shared by leadership and faculty from each program, the Office of Program Assessment and Evaluation, and assessment designees representing each school and college, as well as key support services. Assessment for continuous improvement at Walden takes place through five processes designed to provide faculty and administrators with multiple insights and perspectives on the student experience. These systems include:

Assessment of Program Learning Outcomes

Program learning outcomes (PLOs) and objectives are foundational for developing the curriculum of a new academic program. They articulate the overarching themes for what graduates of the program can learn and do when successfully completing all program requirements. They also serve as the bedrock for assessment of student learning and continuous improvement for the program.

Each academic program at Walden develops a customized assessment plan that emphasizes student learning and program improvement. The Assessment of Program Learning Outcomes (APLO) Plan is a multi-year assessment planner that is utilized by program leadership and faculty to help organize and track the assessment methods and data collection details; performance targets and benchmarks; and the assessment results, analysis, and follow-up actions. In the APLO, core program learning outcomes are assessed on a three-year cycle by academic year. These outcomes are mapped and assessed across the program curricula along with outcomes for concentrations and specializations within a program. Direct assessment methods are used by faculty to measure student learning and programmatic accreditation standards are integrated into the APLO. Indirect assessment information regarding the student experience and other key student success metrics related to the program learning outcomes are also included in the APLO plan to evaluate the overall health of the academic program. Annually, program leadership and faculty share evidence and provide a narrative for how the assessment process and related results have been used to improve student learning and program quality over time.

Program Self-Reviews

The Program Self-Reviews (PSR) is one mechanism by which the University routinely evaluates its academic programs and associated services to ensure they reflect the standards that are imperative for the University’s future. The primary aim of the PSR is to describe the major factors influencing the educational experiences of a student in a Walden program and to evaluate them against Walden University standards of quality, integrity, and student-centeredness. It is an evidence-based process that involves a diverse set of stakeholders brought together to assess an academic program and make recommendations for program improvement. A comprehensive program self-review occurs for all academic programs every ten years and academic programs engage in periodic program self-reviews, as needed, between comprehensive reviews. The first comprehensive program self-review is initiative approximately four years after admitting students to the program. 

The PSRs are based on best practices outlined by the Council of Graduate Schools, an accepted standard. Walden involves faculty, staff, and reviewers external to the program in the process. Program leadership also use the APR process to:

  • assess the overall quality of programs and adherence to discipline standards;
  • facilitate accountability to students, faculty, and employers;
  • assist in long-range program planning;
  • enhance Walden’s basic values of quality, integrity, and student centeredness;
  • identify opportunities to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of curricula;
  • enhance teaching and learning processes; and,
  • identify opportunities for enhancing and improving student and faculty engagement.

The PSR process follows a cycle that ensures an action-oriented approach. This approach includes an extensive self-study period followed by a site visit and consolidated report of the self-study and findings from the site visit’s external reviewers. From this report, program leaders create action plans, with the goal of maintaining or expanding program strengths while addressing improvement opportunities with evidence-based modifications. In this way, University academic leaders can also use the results in prioritizing resource needs.

Co-Curricular Reviews

Walden University’s Co-Curricular Review (CCR), is a continuous quality-improvement process that engages internal and external stakeholders in systematic processes to evaluate the performance of a service unit, including the impact on student learning outcomes using direct and indirect methods. The purpose of the CCR process is is to measure the learning activities, programs, and experiences that reinforce the institution’s mission and values and complements the formal curriculum. The service unit’s analysis and review of such data and information is a continuous process that occurs every five years. 

Student Evaluations of Learning and Teaching

The Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Engagement, and Academic Performance at Walden University oversees the administration of course evaluations, sent to students at the end of every term (course-based programs) or subscription period (competency-based programs). Course evaluations gather feedback on topics such as course content, instructional quality, inclusive learning and teaching, skill-building for social change-making, and co-curricular academic support services. Completion of each survey is voluntary, and only aggregated data is reported. To enhance the confidentiality of the responses to the survey, demographic data is not reported for items where the respondent sample is less than five. Data is used for course content updates, faculty performance reviews and ongoing development, annual program reviews, and accreditation reports.

University Surveys

The Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Engagement, and Academic Performance oversees the administration of several institutional surveys each year. Completion of the surveys is voluntary, and only aggregated data is reported. To enhance the confidentiality of the responses to the survey, demographic data is not reported for items where the respondent sample is less than five. The data from these surveys are used to evaluate the quality of Walden's services and provide supplementary information for accreditation and regulatory reporting.

  • The Student Satisfaction Survey gathers feedback on topics related to the students’ experience outside of the classroom, such as student satisfaction, the likelihood to recommend Walden, student support services, student organizations, diversity and inclusion, and participation in social change.
  • The Alumni Survey is sent to degree-obtaining alumni who graduated one, three, and five years from the survey administration date and gathers feedback on topics such as alumni satisfaction, the likelihood to recommend Walden, the Walden experience, the impact of their degree on their professional life, and participation in social change.
  • The Employer Survey is sent to employers of Walden graduates according to permission and information included in graduate applications and the Alumni Survey. The survey gathers feedback on topics such as employer satisfaction, the likelihood to recommend Walden, the impact of the employee's degree on their professional life, and the employee's participation in social change.
  • The Faculty Satisfaction Survey gathers feedback on topics such as faculty satisfaction, likelihood to recommend Walden as an employer, institutional identity, faculty governance and support services, diversity and inclusion, and participation in social change.

Sources of Data on Student Learning and Experience

In accordance with best practice around outcomes assessment, the university utilizes multiple sources of data on student learning to inform continuous improvement at programmatic and institutional levels. These include:

Direct Evidence of Student Learning

  • Individual course assignment rubric data
  • Major assessment data
  • Dissertations, and doctoral studies rubric data
  • Supervisor evaluation data from internships, practicums, and field experiences
  • Competency rubric data from competency-based education (CBE) programs

Indirect Evidence of Student Learning

  • Student self-assessments within individual degree programs (practicum, internship)

Evidence of Student Experience

  • Annual student, graduation, alumni, and employer surveys
  • Course evaluations

Other Sources of Data for Continuous Improvement

  • Demographic profiles of students and graduates
  • Retention and graduation rate reports
  • Research studies of student learning and success
  • Key performance indicators on instruction and support services
  • Required licensure examinations

Decision-Making Processes

Walden University follows a shared, informed stakeholder-engaged governance model that is consistent with our values and with the Association of American Universities' 2013 guidelines on governance and which reflect the best practices in institutional governance. This model extends traditional administration-faculty engagement in decision making to one in which engagement requires a broader range of voices from key stakeholder groups, both internal and external to the institution. Adequate opportunities for communication are essential if faculty, leadership, staff and administrative members are to fulfill their roles in institutional governance.  For the faculty, this explicitly includes the responsibility to oversee the programs’ curriculum (including its outcomes, content, and assessment) and to approve academic policies for students and faculty. Governance structures at both the university and the college levels help ensure that the faculty members fulfill their roles.