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The combination of community, service, and academics are what stand out to me about [being a] Thresher. With small classes, attentive professors, and the focus on service…students get the opportunity to excel in multiple areas.
Cassidy McFadden ’12

Program Evaluation

Bethel College’s assessment model is used to evaluate academically based student learning outcomes in the following categories: professional skills; understandings; and integrative abilities.

Each department has developed more discipline-specific and measurable objectives relating to each of the above more general student learning outcomes. Once these objectives are set, each department attempts to determine the degree to which its student majors are reaching those objectives and, if they are not, what programming changes need to be made. In this way, student learning outcome data serves to improve programming and thus increase the level of student performance and accomplishment in each respective department’s discipline.

Bethel’s assessment model is being applied to what the college as a whole is trying to accomplish with all students through the Common Ground curriculum – e.g., Basic Issues of Faith and Life (BIFL), Cross-Cultural Learning (CCL), or Peace, Justice, Conflict Studies (PJCS). With some modifications, the model is also being adapted to various co-curricular areas – e.g., student life, athletics, admissions or development.

We believe that as you peruse this website, you will find good evidence for the value of our programs, both academic and co-curricular. We think there is much to celebrate regarding our students’ performance and accomplishments and continually strive for improvement.

Assessment model

The college has been engaged in formal assessment of its programs, starting with the 1994-95 Task Force on Assessment commissioned by the administration to oversee the establishment of a model for academic program assessment. The model was put into place in 1997, with all academic departments clarifying mission statements and corresponding assessment models, comprised of goals and objectives relating to skills (e.g., oral and written communication, computer skills, laboratory skills, etc.); understandings (e.g., knowing the content of a discipline); and integrative abilities (being able to analyze, synthesize, engage in critical thinking using comparative processes, etc.).

Assessment cycle

The assessment cycle identifies mission-related goals along with a set of matched quantifiably measurable objectives.

Once those objectives are in place, instructors work to help students achieve outcomes related to them. Students are tested sometime near the end of the academic year to determine relative achievement. Outcomes are evaluated to determine whether to hold steady (having achieved objective-related outcome levels) and test again next year, to ensure that students are still achieving the desired outcomes; or institute changes.

Changes can be made in pedagogy, curriculum, assessment venue, instructor, administrative time commitment of the instructor and a host of other areas. Once changes are instituted, there is a recommencement and recommitment to teaching the following year, testing again – at year’s end – students’ objective-related outcomes achievement, and so on, into the second and third years, holding steady or changing if warranted.

With third-year stability of achievement-related outcomes, a monitoring and maintenance strategy would be adopted. Simultaneous with the development of new objectives, the cycle starts anew.

General Education

General Education at the present time consists of the five following curriculum-wide goals:

  1. a broad understanding of the social and natural world
  2. effective communication skills
  3. the ability to gather, interpret and evaluate information from a wide range of sources and to integrate knowledge from various disciplines
  4. experience in cross-cultural learning and an understanding of the global nature of human community
  5. experience in examining basic questions of faith and life

These goals have been operationalized into more quantifiable objectives, the achievement of which has been evaluated through a set of relevant GE courses.

While formal GE assessment has been in evidence since the late ’90s, it has focused mainly on written communication, via the written communication rubric as applied to the Basic Issues of Faith and Life (BIFL) research paper; oral communication via the BIFL oral interview rubric; and campus life via the Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI). Within the last several years, more formal assessments have been initiated of various distribution-based objectives (e.g., natural Sciences and math; social sciences and human services; fine arts and humanities), the Cross-Cultural Learning experience (CCL), and Peace, Justice, Conflict Studies (PJCS).

Co-curricular assessment

While the formal assessment of co-curricular areas has been in place for the last couple of decades, only within the last half-dozen or so years has emphasis on student learning outcomes started to be more consistently embraced across these areas.

Co-curricular activities occur in the residence halls and cafeteria, on the football, soccer and softball fields, in the gym, on the Green and on Sand Creek Trail. Co-curricular activities also take place in the offices of the registrar; development; business affairs; institutional communications; student life; admissions; and church relations/campus ministries. Indeed, in the last three years, the Assessment Committee has made an effort to encourage and assist such offices to more deliberately think about how to facilitate learning among the students they employ, as well as to use student-learning outcome data more effectively in the attainment of department-specific goals.

External indicators of excellence

External indicators of excellence are conferred upon a department, program, faculty or student, by an entity that exists outside the college. These entities include the media (e.g.,, U.S. News & World Report); testing and evaluation resources (e.g., Educational Testing Service [ETS] or Graduate Record Exam [GRE]); professional conferences (e.g., the Midwestern Psychological Association, International Congress on Schizophrenia Research or Kansas Music Educators Association meetings); professional publishers (e.g., the Proceedings of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, the American Journal of Undergraduate Research or the Schizophrenia Bulletin); awards, competitions and commendations (e.g., national competitions such as the American Forensic Association-National Individual Events Tournament [AFA-NIET] or the Council on Undergraduate Research Posters-on-the-Hill event); and a variety of other venues.