ICaP Assessment has had a long history, but our current project builds on the 2014-2015 Introductory Composition at Purdue Assessment report composed by then director, Dr. Jennifer L. Bay, Dr. Fredrik deBoer, Luke Redington, Sherri Craig, and Dr. M. Brooke Robertshaw in June 2015. In Spring of 2017, The Council of Writing Program Administrators (CWPA) completed a review of ICaP where it was suggested we build on the assessment project started in 2014-2015. Upon the CWPA’s review, there were two essential concepts for the continued development of ICaP assessment and its ability to measure student outcomes: coherency and consistency. As the 2017-18 ICaP Assessment Report: Common Assignment Pilots states, the common assignments were our attempt to create this coherency and consistency amongst the syllabus approaches and instructors’ course materials. This consistency would show current and future stakeholders that ICaP is able to teach our six established outcomes and that students walk away from first-year composition with an understanding of writing and its encompassing elements.
Initially, ICaP had six common assignments (i.e., professional email assignment, rhetorical analysis, literature review, reading annotations, writing portfolio, and an information literacy essay) that were developed by the Pedagogical Initiatives Committee that consisted of syllabus approach leaders and then Assessment Research Coordinator, Daniel Ernst. After our first round of assessments, we narrowed down the common assignments to four: the professional-email assignment, rhetorical analysis, research-based essay (formerly the literature review), and the writing portfolio. The reading annotations were eliminated because they hit many of the same outcomes that the literature review/research-based essay did. Additionally, the information literacy essay was eliminated because it lacked instructors to teach it. For a full description of the assessment results, please see this link: 2017-2018 Assessment Results. These assessment results also allowed ICaP to update instructor guides to meet the needs of the instructors and what they wanted to see in the common assignment.
The first round of common assignments were not mandatory. In the Fall 2018 semester, ICaP made a decision to require all instructors to complete one common assignment in each 106/108 section taught so that we could grow our data. The numbers were as follows:
- Portfolio: 3 participants
- Professional Email: 24 participants
- Research-Based Essay: 36 participants
- Rhetorical Analysis: 8 participants
Our data grew in each common assignment, so our read and rate sessions allowed us to assess ICaP outcomes individually and collectively.
Because all instructors were required to submit common assignments, the issue arose as to how our common assignments would be submitted because we were expecting a large amount of data that needed to be kept secure. In Fall 2018, Derek Sherman, then Assistant Director of Assessment, created a Qualtrics submission protocol that allowed instructors to submit their common assignments, describe successes and failures in teaching the common assignment, and reflect on how the common assignment may be revised. You can access that protocol here: Common Assignment Submission Protocol. We thank those beta testers who were able to help us revise and establish the final protocol.
During the Spring of 2019, several norm, read, and rate sessions were held at Convocation and during the semester. These norm, read, and rate sessions taught us several lessons about assessment and how difficult it is to norm individuals from across disciplines. The following are the lessons learned:
- Create clearer and more poignant rubrics;
- Establish boundaries between grading and assessing;
- Take the assessment sample at face value rather than assuming what went on in the classroom; and
- Understand that norming instructors from multiple epistemologies and classroom practices takes time, hence the need to further establish a culture of assessment
These lessons learned helped us decide that we needed an assessment that allowed us to measure all ICaP outcomes rather than a select few. Measuring all of our outcomes provides us with a larger picture of the program as a whole, but it also created the opportunity to assess our new syllabus themes with an assessment already in place.
In all, we decided upon the portfolio as our common assignment after analyzing our norm, read, and rate sessions and instructor comments. The portfolio addressed all six of our ICaP outcomes and spoke to our instructors’ strengths in their diversity of teaching assignments. We wanted to create coherency and consistency, but we also wanted to adhere to our instructors’ strengths and student needs. Summer 2019 was the first full semester where the portfolio was implemented across all English 106/108 sections. Please see the Common Assignment page for more information on the portfolio.