“Assessment” is a term used in higher education to refer to an extended and on-going process of self-evaluation intended to establish for a school and the public that its educational programs are effective. Assessment data is used to improve courses, curricula, and academic programs. All accredited institutions of higher learning engage in assessment activities.
Phoenix Seminary embraces intentional, on-going assessment of our institutional effectiveness as a tangible manifestation of our commitment to Christian integrity and stewardship. To this end we seek to be an institution wisely using the resources God entrusts to us by becoming increasingly proficient and professional in accomplishing our mission.
Because of this philosophy, the board, administration, faculty and staff of the Seminary have for many years engaged in various kinds of analysis of our effectiveness. Our 2021-23 Academic Assessment Plan reflects commitments to best practices embodied in the standards of our two accrediting agencies: The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
The assessment activities of the Seminary are overseen by the Assistant Dean of Assessment working with the Provost and the Assessment Committee—composed largely of full-time resident faculty and administrative faculty.
Because we are committed to transparency, the following downloadable material covers virtually all of our assessment process including: student learning outcomes; our Academic Assessment Plan; listings of our assessment resources; our current assessment activities (and associated calendars); evidence of student learning displayed in annual summaries of outcomes assessment for each academic program; and indications (in annual summary) of how assessment results are being used to improve our educational effectiveness. Those who seek additional information, have questions, or wish to make comments may contact the Seminary’s Assistant Dean of Assessment, Roma Royer, who may be reached at 602.429.4947 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The nature and scope of academic assessment at Phoenix Seminary is indicated in the table of contents of our current year Academic Assessment Plan:
Phoenix Seminary Academic Assessment Committee
2021-22 Members: Steve Duby, Peter Gurry, David Hogg, and Roma Royer (Chair and Assistant Dean of Academic Services and Assessment).
Description: The Academic Assessment Committee works in cooperation with the Assistant Dean of Academic Services and Assessment to plan, implement, and evaluate the assessment activities of the Seminary and to document improvements made as a consequence of the institution’s assessment activities. From time-to-time the Seminary faculty, acting as a committee of the whole, function as the assessment committee, particularly in regard to discussion and development of learning outcomes, assessment instruments, evaluation criteria and rubrics, as well as discussion of areas for change/improvement identified through the assessment process. The assessment committee is charged with the following: (a) approval of assessment program goals as reflected in the annual assessment plan; (b) oversight of the assessment process, including implementation and completion of the assessment loop each academic year; (c) evaluation of the assessment plan; and (d) decisions regarding management of assessment materials.
Assessment Purpose and Goals at Phoenix Seminary
Purpose of assessment: To improve the Seminary by providing data for the continuation and improvement of quality academic degree programs.
Goals of assessment:
- To ensure Christian integrity and effective stewardship
- To become increasingly effective and professional in realizing our educational mission
- To improve student learning and their professional and spiritual development
- To enhance our curricula and instruction
- To align academic assessment with the institutional budget and strategic plan, as needed
- To foster compliance with the requirements for accreditation
- To demonstrate compliance with applicable federal regulations
2021-23 Assessment Plan
Each year the Seminary’s assessment committee reviews the findings of the prior year assessment plan. The effectiveness of the plan itself and associated instruments are evaluated and changes made as analysis of data and experience indicate is necessary. Evaluation of the plan itself normally takes place in the fall semester, hence the website displays the prior year’s plan until the current year’s plan is approved by the assessment committee. This is usually done by December.
Links to elements of the current Academic Assessment Plan:
The Phoenix Seminary 2021-23 Academic Assessment Plan is a large document. It may be accessed through the following link:
The Academic Assessment Plan may also be viewed in the following sections:
The Seminary seeks, in God’s grace, to produce graduates who have the knowledge, skills and character qualities essential to effective ministry. These are summarized in our Educational Values. Each academic program at Phoenix Seminary is linked to the Educational Values through alignment of student learning outcomes and individual course learning outcomes. These relationships are laid out in the following pages from our assessment plan:
Assessment takes place in a planned cycle, with outcomes evaluated according to calendars, using instruments and various tools. These are explained in the following pages from our assessment plan:
The Seminary’s academic programs are each assessed using student learning outcomes. The academic assessment template and assessment plans (which also serve as records) for each degree or diploma program are given on the following pages, extracted from the academic assessment plan:
Prior Cycle Assessment History:
Phoenix Seminary maintains records of prior year assessment activities (2007-2021). These provide useful comparative data to the assessment committee and an archive for accreditation purposes and public examination. Because of the size of these historical records, they are not all posted here. Those not posted may be consulted by appointment with the Assistant Dean of Academic Services and Assessment.
The 2021-23 Academic Assessment Plan appears in segments above. This plan includes 2019-21 assessment results as “historical data” for comparison, as approved by the Assessment Committee, including summaries of data analysis, recommended changes for each academic program, and a task list for follow–up accountability. 2019-21 assessment results may be viewed by clicking on the link below:
Assessment of Online Learning
Phoenix Seminary’s assessment of student learning outcomes in its academic online learning program takes place in the same manner it does on campus—through academic program assessment plans—see foregoing links to these plans. Direct measures include both online and ground students and results will be analyzed both separately and together.
Current Phoenix Seminary faculty rubrics:
To assist in ensuring greater objectivity in evaluating student work, seminary faculty have developed a number of rubrics. A “rubric” is a scoring tool listing the requirements for a research paper, other course assignment, or examination. Typically rubrics break an assignment into a number of parts and indicate performance criteria for the several elements. Rubrics are valuable educationally because they convey useful feedback to students and encourage student learning. They are important to students because they define expectations, provide performance criteria and increase objectivity in evaluating student work. They are especially important to faculty in contexts such as an oral examination, where multiple examiners or jury members render decisions about a student’s competency in responding to questions. In such contexts, rubrics provide greater “inter-rater reliability.” That is, they reduce subjectivity among the examiners opinions because the criteria for evaluation are spelled out, and consequently their use tends to produce greater consensus regarding student performance.
For the purpose of juried reviews, the seminary has begun using rubrics for course-embedded assignments that are linked directly to the student learning outcomes. The following document contains examples of rubrics used at Phoenix Seminary.
Online Assessment Information:
- Association of Theological Schools assessment resources: http://www.ats.edu/resources/administrators/assessment-coordinators
- DePaul University – “Assessment Resources”: https://offices.depaul.edu/center-teaching-learning/assessment/resources/Pages/default.aspx
- North Carolina State University – Resources for Higher Education Outcomes Assessment: http://www2.acs.ncsu.edu/UPA/archives/assmt/resource.htm
- Northern Illinois University – https://www.niu.edu/effectiveness/assessment/resources.shtml
- Truman State University – Assessment web page: http://assessment.truman.edu/
- Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion – Google "Wabash Center Assessment" for archival assessment information.
- Winona University – https://www.winona.edu/ipar/learning-outcomes.asp
Books on Assessment:
- M. J. Allen, Assessing Academic Programs in Higher Education, (San Francisco: Anker Publishing, 2004).
- Trudy W. Banta and Catherine A. Palomba, Assessment Essentials: Planning, Implementing, Improving, 2nd edition, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014).
- Susan M. Butler and Nancy D. McMunn, A Teacher’s Guide to Classroom Assessment: Understanding and Using Assessment to Improve Student Learning, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006).
- A. Driscoll, D. Cordero de Noriega and J. Ramaly, Taking Ownership of Accreditation: Assessment Processes That Promote Institutional Improvement and Faculty Engagement, (Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2006).
- Sarah Drummond, Holy Clarity: The Practice of Planning and Evaluation, (Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 2009).
- Judith Grunert, Barbara J. Millis and Margaret W. Cohen, The Course Syllabus: A Learning-Centered Approach,2nd edition, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008).
- William R. Meyers, Closing the Assessment “Loop”: Nurturing Healthy, On-going Self-evaluation in Theological Schools, (Chicago: Exploration Press, 2006).
- Peggy L. Maki, Assessing for Learning: Building a Sustainable Commitment Across the Institution, 2nd edition, (Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2010). [An American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) publication].
- Dannelle D. Stevens and Antonia J. Levi, Introduction to Rubrics: An Assessment Tool to Save Grading Time, Convey Effective Feedback and Promote Student Learning, 2nd edition, (Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2012).
- Linda Suski, Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide, 2nd edition, (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2009).
- Barbara E. Walvoord, Assessment Clear and Simple, 2nd edition, (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010).
- Barbara E. Walvord and Virginia J. Anderson, Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment in College, 2nd edition, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2009).