Continuous Improvement System
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 Institutional Effectiveness, 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, if applicable. 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.
Academic Program Reviews
The Academic Program Review (APR) 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 APR 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. Academic programs not affiliated with professional accreditation undergo an APR at least every five years, with each program of study initiating its first APR after approximately four years of admitting students to the program. Programs that have professional accreditation may opt to substitute the accreditation review for the APR depending on the accreditation cycle.
The APRs 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 APR 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 collaborate with the Vice Provost of Institutional Effectiveness and Dean of Academic Success for Assessment to create action plans, forming the basis of an agreed-upon plan upon which to execute—always 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.
Walden University’s Co-Curricular Review (CCR), which uses the Baldrige criteria as the framework, 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. The purpose of the CCR process is to help ensure that each co-curricular service unit meets Walden’s requirements for performance excellence and achieving sustainable results. Each service unit is expected to select, collect, and integrate data and information for tracking its operations and overall performance in relation to the university’s mission, vision, values, and strategic goals. The service unit’s analysis and review of such data and information is a continuous process. While not all Walden service units directly impact student learning outcomes, those that do ensure additional focus is put on these measures. Like the Academic Program Review, the CCR occurs on a five-year cycle, however, the self-study created in year one is reviewed internally during year two and externally during year three.
Student Evaluations of Learning and Teaching
The Office of Institutional Effectiveness 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, 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.
The Office of Institutional Effectiveness oversees the administration of several institutional surveys each year. Completion of the surveys is voluntary, and only aggregated data is reported. 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. 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
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