Assessment of student learning is the work of many hands across the College and flows from learning objectives established for multiple levels and domains of teaching and learning (institutional, general education, and department-/program-specific). In addition, the Division of Student Affairs maintains an active program of learning assessment to support students’ co-curricular interactions and overall development.
Pomona is committed to a philosophy and practice of assessment that:
- Is grounded in authentic and meaningful student work
- Integrates into what faculty already do
- Provides a vehicle for critical reflection on pedagogy and curricula
- Illuminates actionable next steps
An important component of Pomona’s assessment work revolves around five core competencies. These competencies reflect national consensus about the aims and outcomes of a twenty-first-century college education and have become a focus within our accreditation region, governed by the Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). Assessment of the five core competencies is facilitated by the Teaching and Learning Committee in coordination with the faculty and other campus partners:
Five Core Competencies
Information literacy is the ability to use critical thinking to create meaningful knowledge from information. The information literate student engages in a process of inquiry in order to frame intellectual challenges and identify research needs; accesses, evaluates, and communicates information effectively; provides attribution for source materials used; and develops insight into the social, legal, economic and ethical aspects of information creation, use, access and durability. These skilled activities of information literate students can be broken down into five key dimensions:
- Inquiry: interpreting assignments; selecting research tools and sources; developing a research strategy, questions, and thesis to facilitate strategic information discovery;
- Evaluation: resource analysis, inference, and revision of research strategy;
- Communication: synthesis, integration, contextualization, use, and presentation of evidence in scholarship and creative work;
- Attribution: providing clear source documentation in writing as well as media and other non-textual work in order to engage in a scholarly conversation;
- Insight: critical understanding of the social, legal, economic, and ethical aspects of information creation, use, access, and durability.
Information literacy is an essential component of Pomona College’s ID1 Critical Inquiry Seminar, a required course for all first semester freshmen that includes a research project that introduces students to and helps develop student facility with these key dimensions. Additional training in Information literacy is available in college courses throughout the four-year process, culminating for the majority of students in a senior capstone experience. Through an evaluation of student information literacy in the senior capstone experience, we are able to communicate areas of potential improvement to instructors teaching the first-semester Critical Inquiry Seminar and introductory courses in the major.
The Teaching and Learning Committee at Pomona College defines critical thinking as “the ability to explore issues, ideas, artifacts, and events skillfully and insightfully and on that basis formulate a well-supported opinion or conclusion.” Fostering critical thinking is one of the central goals of the ID1 Critical Inquiry Seminar for first-year students (a part of Pomona College’s General Education requirements). Critical thinking is an essential component of student work toward the major and minor, as defined by individual disciplines. As part of the College’s assessment of Critical Thinking, the directors/readers of senior capstone work assess critical thinking, using a rubric developed by the Teaching and Learning Committee in collaboration with Pomona College faculty across the various departments. The general categories of evaluation of senior projects include:
- Selection/formulation of a question,
- Evaluation, and
- Connection of thoughts
The Teaching and Learning Committee collects and aggregates information from departments and programs, analyzes student outcomes and communicates them back to departments to inform the work of both students and faculty.
Quantitative reasoning involves skills related to mathematical, statistical, or computational data gathering and analysis, and Pomona’s assessment practices are geared toward ensuring that students develop a strong foundation in analyzing and making sense of data. These practices focus on the first and second year level of student work, where a majority of students encounter and develop basic skills in this core competency. These foundational skills typically are developed through gateway courses in introductory natural and social sciences and through general education requirements in Area 4 (Physical and Biological Sciences) and Area 5 (Mathematical and Formal Reasoning). The Quantitative Skills Center is an important resource for many students as they navigate these introductory and general education courses, and for many who pursue majors with a quantitative emphasis.
Teaching Pomona College students to be effective and skilled writers is an essential part of the College’s work. Our commitment to writing begins with the Critical Inquiry seminar for first-year students and extends to virtually every course offered at the college. Written communication is a cornerstone of intellectual inquiry, and at the heart of a liberal arts education. In addition to annual workshops for instructors of the Critical Inquiry seminar, the Writing Center, together with the Teaching and Learning Committee and the Claremont College’s Center for Teaching and Learning, provide ongoing support and training for instructors with respect to writing as well as support for students. The Writing Partners program involves a cohort of approximately 30 highly trained student writers who work with writers at all levels, at all stages of the writing process, and on assignments in any discipline.
As part of its 2015 revised General Education requirements, Pomona College instituted a new Speaking Intensive course overlay. All students entering the college in the fall of 2016 are expected to take one Speaking Intensive course before the senior year. Full credit speaking Intensive courses require that twenty percent or more of a student’s final grade be from graded oral communication, with at least three instances of individual feedback over the semester. Examples of oral communication can include, but are not limited to, debates, formal presentations, leadership of discussions, oral critiques, and participation in class or laboratory discussions. In fall 2017, the Teaching and Learning Committee will embark on a multi-year process of reviewing, with the collaboration of faculty, oral presentations associated with the senior capstone experience across departments and programs at Pomona College. The process involves establishing and disseminating expected student learning outcomes through a campus-wide rubric for evaluating oral communication. Independent of course grade, the evaluation of oral communications skills will focus on four major areas:
- Use of supporting material/evidence
- Clarity of the central message