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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 assesses student learning for majors, general education, and co-curricular areas as outlined in the comprehensive assessment plan. Assessment is coordinated by the assessment committee.

Each department has developed discipline-specific and measurable objectives relating to each of the learning goals for their major. Using a variety of assessment instruments, 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. In order to maintain the privacy of student data, department assessment reports are not published. Some student learning outcome data, particularly from accredited programs, is available on the departmental pages.

Bethel’s assessment strategies are also applied to what the college as a whole is trying to accomplish with all students through the general education curriculum—Common Ground, distribution and competencies. The assessment process is also being adapted to various co-curricular areas—e.g., student life and library. 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 initial 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, understandings, and integrative abilities. In 2012, academic departments reviewed and revised learning goals with some departments retaining the skills, understandings, and integrative abilities framework, while other departments expressed their goals for student learning in other ways. All departments, academic and co-curricular, identify measurable objectives that come from goals, gather outcomes data using a variety of assessments, analyze the results to determine student learning, and use this data to inform program-related decisions.

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 students’ objective-related outcomes achievement, and so on, into the second and third years, holding steady or changing if warranted.

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.

Formal assessments have been initiated to assess each of the five learning goals. Student perception data supports broad-based understanding of the social and natural world. Student writing, assessed every three years using the Bethel College Writing Rubric, shows strong communication skills. Bethel seniors score above the worldwide norms in all four aspects of cultural intelligence as measured by the Cultural Intelligence Center, and demonstrate the ability to connect their faith with real life situations in the Basic Issues of Faith and Life oral examination. Additional assessments are being implemented and perfected to provide data on student learning related to other General Education objectives.

Co-curricular assessment

Co-curricular activities occur in the residence halls and cafeteria, on the football, soccer and softball fields, in the gym, in the library, on the Green and on Sand Creek Trail. Within the last half-dozen or so years, emphasis on student learning outcomes has started to be more consistently embraced across these areas. The library has developed goals and assessments to measure student learning related to information literacy. Student Life is in the process of identifying goals as well. The student experience, in general, is assessed every two years using the Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory.

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., Forbes.com, ;U.S. News & World Report); testing and evaluation resources (e.g., Educational Testing Service [ETS], Graduate Record Exam [GRE], professional program licensing exams); professional conferences (e.g., the Midwestern Psychological Association, Kansas Music Educators Association); 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.