Core Assessment Plan
The assessment plan for Calvin College, approved by the faculty in April of 1994, provided the following challenge:
As we strive to meet these [stated mission of Calvin] goals, Calvin needs an assessment plan that will place all assessment of student learning in a larger context and ensure that we are evaluating the right things at the right time. Although such a plan will help us fulfill our obligation to the North Central Association, Calvin ultimately needs to assess its effectiveness on student learning in order to provide direction for the future. Stated another way, simply recording that Calvin promotes “sound scholarship, earnest effort, and an obligation to use one’s talents fully in response to a divine calling” is insufficient. Rather, we must seek to ensure that what we are accomplishing in the education of Calvin students conforms to what we say we want to accomplish. Even though it is true that the achievement of some of our goals is difficult to assess and the achievement of other goals cannot be assessed, we must make every attempt to assess achievement of goals where it is possible.
The assessment plan focused on educational effectiveness, differentiating it from administrative effectiveness, financial management, or strategic operations. The plan also identified what needs to be measured, namely cognitive factors (knowledge and skills) as well as noncognitive factors such as attitudes, values, and the like. Finally, the plan suggested that assessment should occur in three areas: the core curriculum, programs and majors, and other aspects of the Calvin experience which have an impact on students’ education.
In addressing the core curriculum, the plan identified the four, broad goals for the core curriculum as found in the Expanded Statement of Mission: knowledge, competencies, awareness, and commitments. These five objectives were offered:
Graduates will be able to:
- articulate the biblical principles underlying the Christian tradition and also the central features of the Reformed tradition in which this college stands;
- demonstrate the competencies and knowledge that are basic to the life of a college educated person;
- express their beliefs clearly and succinctly in oral and written forms;
- discern whether their own and others’ interactions and behaviors correspond with their identities as image-bearers of God;
- value interactions and behaviors in keeping with a life of Christian citizenship in the world.
The plan suggested that core curriculum assessment be completed as a four-year pilot project. We are now in the fourth year of that pilot project, and we have learned something about the effectiveness of the current core curriculum (giving rise, in part, to this proposal for revision). We have also learned much about implementing a variety of methods for assessing the core.
It is premature, however, to expect a new core assessment plan as companion to this core curriculum proposal. Certainly, this proposal and the previously approved Statement of Purpose for the Core Curriculum of Calvin College provide a foundation for an assessment plan. The Statement of Purpose turns the four goals and five objectives, listed above, into fifteen areas of core knowledge, fourteen areas of core skills, and fourteen areas of core virtues. The proposed curriculum structure, with its two curricular bookends, Developing a Christian Mind and Integrative Studies, provides logical sites for potential assessment activity. But the curricular plan requires approval before an assessment plan is developed.
Anticipating approval, the academic year 1999-2000 will require the Assessment Committee to bring, first to the Core Curriculum Committee and ultimately to Faculty Senate, a plan for assessing this new core curriculum. In this way, an assessment approach suitable for the new curriculum will be implemented when the new curriculum begins in the fall of 2000.