A comprehensive assessment program is necessary to systematically document and verify program effectiveness. Assessment provides reliable data to aid program development and verify student learning. Assessment has always been an important part of the educational processes at the UNMC College of Pharmacy and is a college-wide endeavor in which all students, faculty, and staff take part.
In January 2007, the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) advised the college to develop an official program of assessment to measure the extent of which the college mission and goals are achieved. Assessment systematically measures program effectiveness regarding student abilities, knowledge, skill, values, and performance beyond the classroom. The process also establishes accountability as it includes collecting, documenting, and disseminating data/findings.
This document reviews current assessment practices in the college and outlines a plan for a new assessment program. Additionally, it provides information about assessment structure, guidelines, methods, data analysis, and reports.
The College of Pharmacy uses a variety of assessment tools to measure student achievement and program effectiveness such as local surveys, national test and licensing board exams. UNMC Eval is a web-based evaluation system used to administer most local surveys such as student/faculty self-assessments and course/instructor surveys. The college also uses a web-based survey, administered by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), to measure program effectiveness. AACP also provides a detailed analysis of peer colleges. The NAPLEX Licensure Exam is used to assess students' knowledge and competency to practice pharmacy; the results are used to measure program effectiveness.
A New Direction
The goal for the college is to develop an effective assessment program which can verify program effectiveness and continuous improvement. The assessment program is in its initial stages. As the process develops some methods and measures will be replaced with ones that prove to be more effective in improving the overall program and student learning. The foundation of the assessment program is based on the college mission and values as well as the programmatic outcomes document.
In May 2008, college adopted a new programmatic outcomes document from the AACP Center for the Advancement of Pharmaceutical Education (CAPE) Educational Outcomes Report (2004). The new document outlines required educational outcomes and competencies for the pharmacy program, which includes fundamental pharmaceutical science, management, patient care, as well as addressing current and progressive topics in the discipline. The implementation of the new outcomes document has prompted changes in program curriculum including; course offerings, content, and sequence.
Assessment systematically measures and verifies various aspects of student learning. The proposed plan has three components: program, course, and student assessment. Program assessment measures overall program effectiveness, which includes learning outcomes, student experience, student achievement, and workforce preparedness. Course assessment measures course goals, objectives and content within the classroom. In addition, it measures the effectiveness of course materials such as exams, projects, and group work etc. Student assessment measures progress and development of student learning regarding multiple components of program curriculum. The various components of assessment links student performance to specific program outcomes.
The program includes various forms of assessment including formative, summative, direct, and indirect measures. As noted previously, the college uses a variety of assessment instruments to measure student learning on multiple levels. New methods will be incorporated to ensure program comprehensiveness. A thorough analysis of each method and instrument will be conducted to determine appropriateness as validity is imperative to ensure the reliability of results.
There are many aspects of the program and curriculum to measure but it is illogical to measure everything at once. The assessment program must be clear and decisive. College deans, program directors, and faculty will work together to determine the order of which outcomes are to be measured.
An effective program consists of students who have made a transition from passive to active learners and engaged in the educational process. It includes students who demonstrate mastery of competencies and skills as stated in the programmatic outcomes document. Also, students are satisfied with the overall Pharm. D. program, student services, and administrative support. Faculty engagement is another aspect of success as faculty are engaged in the overall academic program, assessment, and student success.
General program goals are outlined in the program outcome documents, curriculum outlines, and course syllabi. In order to comprehend and explain assessment results, specific measures are needed. Each assessment component and individual activity has or will have an expected outcome. The assessment coordinator along with faulty, curriculum and outcomes committees will develop measures to gauge success.
Documenting, Sharing, and Storing Results
Transparency in the program is part of completing the cycle of assessment as it establishes accountability and reliability. All assessment activity will be documented and collected data will be stored for future reference, review, and use. Results will be document in formal reports. Copies of assessment data and results will be stored in the Dean's office and electronic versions on the college share drive.
Using Results to Close the Loop
The goal of assessment is to ensure continuous quality program development. Assessment data and reports are used to verify student learning and growth. Also, reports are used in Curriculum and program reviews to guide changes and improvements. Program deans, chairpersons, and faculty will receive semi-annual reports of assessment activity in the college and use reports to make data established decisions. Assessment will be an essential tool to determine program direction. All aspects of the program will be assessed to determine needed improvements and revisions.
Maintaining an effective assessment program is a collaborative effort involving students, faculty, and administration. As the program is established, assessment will become part of the college of regular day to day operations, environment and culture. To further this effort, assessment activities and results will be placed in the student quarterly newsletter, APhA-ASP Capsule. Information will be presented in a series of communications by email and memo post detailing, the importance and purpose of assessment, student/faculty roles, activities, reports and results Also, a comprehensive assessment component will be placed on the college web page.
- Students are the centerpiece of the assessment program. Students who understand the purpose of assessment and feel part of the process are more likely to take their part seriously which can improve response rates and more reliable results. Student participation in assessment activities demonstrates an aspect of professionalism.
- A major element for success of the assessment program is to have input and participation from faculty. Pharmacy faculty understands the importance of assessment and is on board to ensure successful implementation and its continuous success. Faculty participation shows citizenship and dedication to student learning.
- The assessment coordinator and faculty members will work to ensure student learning is the central focus. The coordinator will assist faculty and curricular committees to develop teaching methods and materials that effectively deliver all aspects of the intended course outcomes.
- Pharmacy administration (deans, chairpersons, directors, etc.) is an important part of the assessment program as they are a key factor to providing resources and authorization to implement change and continue an ongoing assessment program. The coordination and efforts of all college stakeholders will assure program development and continuous improvement.