Obstacles at Cypress College

The SLO Committee has identified two main obstacles for faculty within the SLO process. TracDat was one of these obstacles. Most faculty members find the TracDat software cumbersome, and many have difficulty finding the time to input SLO data. As of Spring 2015, Cypress provides classified staff for TracDat inputting, so this is no longer an obstacle.

Another obstacle that continues to impede the SLO process is faculty finding the time to create assessment plans and analyze data. Faculty and administration are working together to solve this problem by providing faculty with professional expert contracts when needed, providing time at division and department meetings for SLO work, as well as other strategies to support faculty in this process.

Obstacles with State Accountability and the Accrediting Bodies
To demonstrate accountability for student learning to the Department of Education, the K-12 educational system uses standardized testing. Before SLOs were implemented at the college level, The Department of Education considered requiring standardized testing for accountability in higher education, but the accrediting commissions demanded a different system, one that would be faculty driven. The SLO process is the alternative to standardization.

Since SLOs are a faculty driven process, and all programs and colleges are different, there is a great deal of flexibility in the process. This means that each college can design a system that works with the campus needs and culture. However, because it’s so flexible, there is no uniform set of directions for how to actually accomplish this task. This can often lead to frustration with the process, especially when accrediting bodies, like the ACCJC, penalize colleges for not meeting SLO standards adequately. We can use the experiences of colleges that are further along in the process, in addition to creating our own processes. However, if we as a college refuse to participate in the SLO process, it could mean that we eventually could have standardized testing and evaluation that is not of our choosing and that we do not value.

Please review the following publication from the Academic Senate of California Community Colleges.

From ACCJC Standard II.A.3. “The institution identifies and regularly assesses learning outcomes for courses, programs, certificates and degrees using established institutional procedures. The institution has officially approved current course outlines that include student learning outcomes. In every class section students receive a course syllabus that includes learning outcomes from the institution’s officially approved course outline.

In interpreting this standard it seems clear that the process is unique to the individual campuses. Admittedly, there is a fine line between maintaining faculty autonomy in the process, and being frustrated by a lack of direction from the state accrediting body.  The best that we can do as educators is to be aware of our campus processes, rely on our discipline-specific expertise to design effective and meaningful learning outcomes and assessments, and then analyze the data collected and utilize it to make changes to improve student understanding of course concepts.