Rutgers University – Creating our System: Strategic Planning for Outcomes

. . . I will continue to learn and grow for the remainder of my “time travelling away from home,” and I, empowered, will help to create a better world for other human beings. I will stand for something, for I will not fall for anything, and when I stand, I stand fervently with passion.

I will continue my education and enter a PhD program once I complete my Baccalaureate, and prayerfully, I will gain admission into the Rutgers Behavioral Neuroscience PhD program or the Psychology PhD program. I will continue researching Autism and Parkinson’s disease, which is what I will be researching for my honor’s thesis, or I will research the neurobiology of addiction and relapse, or the possible impact of environmental toxicants on neurochemistry contributing to an upsurge in violent, aggressive, and antisocial behaviors.

I will, in my own small way, change the world. . . Nadia S..

Benefits of using ePortfolio

Through all of the sections provided by the ePortfolio, I will be able to identify myself clearly as I transition from year to year during my undergraduate career at Rutgers University. I will be able to conveniently take note of what kind of a person I am and what kind of a person I develop into, and ultimately know what kinds of careers are fit for my personality and interests. I will be able to connect my experiences at Douglass and Rutgers, and see how my writing ability, thoughts, and activities develop and grow. I will have the advantage of having a resume on hand for future job employees and for applications in general. Using the ePortfolio will essentially benefit me by allowing me to conveniently keep track of my life, and have a clear vision of my academic and career path . . . Kana Y.

EPortfolios provide essentially two significant moments at which to look at our students’ experiences; 1) their development in the first year course and their implied commitment to learning; and 2) their subsequent capacity to create professional showcases, which include more polished personal statements. How we decide to assess these outcomes depends on whether we decide to emphasize the beginning or the end.

Figure 1 Kana's picture

Figure 1 Kana’s picture

Setting the Stage

As part of a research project designed to assess the performance of women in STEM fields at Douglass, we are creating a broader framework for data collection and analysis of our students’ overall performance in comparison to New Brunswick campus’s undergraduate population. Our outcomes assessment is therefore still part of a larger vision for the residential college, and once we’ve looked at data, we can make decisions about programmatic initiatives, including ePortfolio practice.

Prior to 2013, we developed a simple evaluation rubric, which was included in the Advisor’s Manual

The ePortfolio framework supports the general mission of the college and more specifically, the advising mission. To create an outcomes assessment practice, we would still need more acceptance across the college, especially among the advising deans. At the same time, the first year students’ “raw” ePortfolios frequently trace the impact of the first year course to a newfound, vigorous sense of motivation as our students connect gender to a range of social issues.

Vision and Next Steps

Given the connection between ePortfolios, advisement, and the residential college mission, our next steps will be the creation of an evaluation plan to measure our students’ capacity to integrate their learning experiences with their personal and professional goals, and to deepen those connections through reflection.

Fall 2013 we ran a pilot workshop for a small cohort of students, ranging from first year students to juniors. Five students met once a week for eight weeks; they did not receive credit, but did receive a certificate upon completion, as well as a book on resumes, cover letters, and writing style. We worked on the Sakai ePortfolio and invited speakers to show students how to use more popular web hosting sites, so that students who wished could transfer content from Sakai. Another speaker showed students how to link content to social media, and how to “follow” the companies or industries in which a student might wish to work. We discussed careers and coursework, transferable skills, and ways to think about and express the coherence of one’s interests/majors, personal backgrounds, and community involvement. The students gave the workshop high evaluations. The evaluation form focused on the connection between ePortfolio development and preparation for professional roles. Students worked on polishing their ePortfolios (some were still in the process of creating their sites by the end of the workshop). Once the workshop is more established, staff will create a set of assessment measures.

University Assessment for Undergraduate Learning: Setting the Stage

The largest undergraduate school in New Brunswick, the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), launched efforts to standardize outcomes assessment subsequent to the 2007 merger of undergraduate liberal arts and science units in New Brunswick. A select committee created rubrics for evaluating learning across the core curriculum as well as guidelines for departments. Results were informed by numerous practices: See core rubric bibliography, http://sas.rutgers.edu/search?searchword=rubrics&ordering=newest&searchphrase=all&limit=20. The committee required departments to develop their own rubrics, resulting in models that reflect distinct disciplinary standards. (Douglass includes students from SAS and the professional schools, thus assessment practices will be based on our mission vs. a curricular model.)

Vision and Next Steps

Our biggest hurdles are 1) the sheer size of the university; we are spread across the state, and within New Brunswick, comprise approximately 10 undergraduate colleges and professional schools as well as multiple graduate programs and schools, decentralized in scope. 2) Assessment practices develop out of individual department practices, and ePortfolio technology at Rutgers has not caught up with curricular assessment or standards of faculty development, defined almost solely in terms of promotion and tenure. While most faculty would agree that “inquiry, reflection, and integration” are embedded in curricula as well as their own self-assessments, it would be extremely difficult to convince them that ePortfolio technology might support those goals in practice (if not in theory). Strategically, we would need to connect ePortfolio practice to high impact practices among top tier research institutions before the administration would consider implementation. Finally, the technology would need to be more far more flexible than the OSP (Sakai) platform that we are currently using at Douglass in order to respond to variations among departments. Note: my responses to questions about Growth apply solely to practice at Douglass Residential College. Creating her Sense of Self.ppt

*Exclude statements about the university practices

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