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Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

Everything else that we do takes place in order that we might accomplish the following at both the program and course levels:  decide what and how to teach our students, teach them, and assess our effectiveness in our curriculum design and our pedagogical methods by measuring student learning.  This is the reason your department exists.  Sadly, all of the support services (the rest of this manual and more) may take more of your time.  One consolation is that, if the department chair is effective in managing the department, the faculty can concentrate on this most important function without unnecessary distractions.  It is your responsibility to make sure that your department is organized and empowered to manage its teaching and student learning functions.

APSU Policy 2:032 Program Accreditation governs program accreditation.

All academic programs that are accreditable are required to seek, obtain and maintain accreditation per Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) 2015-2020 Quality Assurance Funding Guidebook:  https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/thec/bureau/aa/academic-programs/qaf/THEC_2015-20_Quality_Assurance_Funding_Guidebook.pdf


Per THEC (Tennessee Higher Education Commission) policy, as outlined in the Quality Assurance Funding 2015-20 Cycle Standards (https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/thec/bureau/aa/academic-programs/qaf/THEC_2015-20_Quality_Assurance_Funding_Guidebook.pdf) programs for which there is no external accrediting body are required to periodically conduct a program review. 

If you are a new chair, you should immediately read the latest program reviews, academic audits, or accreditation reviews prepared for your programs.  There will undoubtedly have been recommendations for improvement suggested by that external review process.  Is your department on track to address these recommendations prior to the next required review?  If so, are the processes being documented?  If not, have a discussion with your department so that faculty leaders (committee chairs, perhaps) are identified to spearhead the department’s progress toward meeting the recommendations.

The dates in which programs come up for program review are set by Academic Affairs.  If you are a new chair, consult with the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment to determine where your program is in the cycle.  Is your department keeping track of the data now that will be needed for the next self-study?

The Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment maintains resources for program reviews including the schedule of program reviews here:  https://www.apsu.edu/institutional-effectiveness/prresources.php

A major component of the university’s SACSCOC self-study and of any departmental program review is assessment of the program-level student learning outcomes.  Requirements vary, but all external department reviews will look for evidence that the department has a process in place for formulating, updating, and assessing program learning outcomes.  These program-level student learning outcomes (SLOs) reflect major program goals, as opposed to more narrow course objectives which are assessed by faculty in the process of assigning grades.  SLOs are measurable categories of learning in term of kinds of knowledge, skills and values that graduates of a program should be able to demonstrate. Program-level student learning outcomes are expected for each degree program and certificate program offered by a department. Another common characteristic of external reviews is that the reviewers are looking for a faculty-driven process, as opposed to something dictated by the chair or any other single person.  Therefore, program assessment is not something you can do for the department, but, as chair, you should make sure your department has the committees and procedures in place to conduct program assessment and to gather data on an on-going basis (and not just the year of the self-study). 

At the beginning of each fall semester your department is required to hold an assessment meeting in which you review the previous year’s assessment data and “close the loop” by formulating a plan for improvement informed by the data that the faculty have collected from all delivery methods and if applicable, from off-campus instructional sites.  You should also determine what assessment data you will collect during the current academic year.  Most faculty were not trained in graduate school in formulating SLO’s and gathering program assessment data.  Consequently, many faculty are puzzled and overwhelmed by the process.  Find out from your dean who is the college’s resource person for assessment and collaborate with this person as you formulate your plans.  (In several colleges, the Associate Dean has been tasked with providing departments with assessment resources and monitoring departmental progress on assessment.)  There are also resources, such as “SLO Primer”, feedback tools, previous workshops etc. on this web page:  https://www.apsu.edu/institutional-effectiveness/workshop_resources.php.

You will need to record SLOs, your data, actions for improvement, etc. in the Nuventive Software.  Access and tutorials for Nuventive are available here:  https://www.apsu.edu/institutional-effectiveness/nuventive-forms.php. Log into Nuventive for feedback from your dean/associate dean on your IE plans and from the Institutional Effectiveness Committee on your completed IE reports.

The Major Field Test is part of the assessment program for most departments.  It can further be a measure of student learning in terms of knowledge SLOs. Information can be found here:  https://www.apsu.edu/institutional-effectiveness/mft.php

Departments that have courses in the General Education core are also responsible for assessing general education student learning outcomes as set by the University. This includes sections taught online and at off-campus sites. Since courses may be taught by adjuncts, outreach and coordination are required. For more information, contact the General Education Standing Committee: https://www.apsu.edu/governance/committees/geneducation.php.

Please contact the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment for consultation, workshops, and other resources: https://www.apsu.edu/institutional-effectiveness/ie-assessment/index.php

Course evaluations are administered using an online software system called SurveyDig, regardless of instructor type (full-time faculty, part-time instructor, etc.) or the course delivery method. Course evaluations are administered for Fall and Spring Semesters, A and B terms, I and II terms, as well as Wintermester, Maymester and Summer.

The purpose of the course evaluations is to collect information to assist faculty in improving the courses and their instructional methods. Therefore our hope is that as many students as possible will complete the course evaluations. Student input is critical to the teaching and learning process. The course evaluation allows students an opportunity to anonymously express their opinions about the course but they also have the option to opt-out of completing any course evaluations.

The course evaluation process is managed by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment (IEA). The Course Evaluation Committee meets regularly with IEA and considers ways to improve the process. Students are reminded to complete the course evaluations by receiving Web Self-Service reminders and emails. Completion of the course evaluations is completely voluntary.

Encourage your faculty to remind students to complete the course evaluations, however it is not appropriate for students to be awarded extra credit for completing course evaluations. In order to reduce any potential concern by students that faculty members could see the course evaluations prior to assigning final grades, the course evaluation period is set to close prior to the faculty member’s submission of final grades. The system is designed so that course evaluations results are anonymous and typically cannot be accessed by faculty until after the faculty member submits final grades to the Office of the Registrar.

As the Chair, you have access to run reports in SurveyDig to view course evaluation results per course or instructor. Results are available within a few days after the term ends. Consider setting aside time after the end of each term to review the results for your full-time faculty and part-time instructors. In addition, help your brand new faculty and part-time instructors learn how to access their course evaluations. 

For more information about course evaluations and the schedule, please visit: https://www.apsu.edu/academic-affairs/course-evaluations/ or contact IEA.

Larger departments will need one or more department curriculum committees.  Smaller departments may find that the whole department can serve as the curriculum committee.  If you have large multi-section courses, you may want to have a faculty coordinator and perhaps a committee for each course.  You may want a separate committee or committees for the concentrations in your major.  Sometimes as programs grow, departments find it necessary to move away from committees of the whole to more specialized curriculum committees.

Revising Courses, Programs, etc.


As a natural consequence of your department’s regular evaluation of curricula and pedagogy, you and your department will find that you need to make course revisions in the form of new courses, edited course descriptions, edited course titles, prerequisite changes, etc. and make program revisions, such as program length, required courses versus elective courses, etc. Ensuring the quality, integrity and currency of the curriculum is the responsibility of the faculty. A list of policies related to curricular development can be found here:  https://www.apsu.edu/academic-course-and-program-development/curricular-policies.php.

The university uses curriculum management software called Curriculog.  Representatives of departments and curriculum committees enter proposals for curriculum changes, and the necessary approvals are tracked by the software.  A description of the software along with tutorial videos and a training schedule may be found here:  https://www.apsu.edu/academic-course-and-program-development/curriculog-information/index.php

The approval process will vary depending on the nature of the proposed changes.  Some program modifications require internal approval only.  Others, in particular those involving new APSU degree programs, must be approved by the APSU Board of Trustees and THEC (Tennessee Higher Education Commission), and possibly by a program accreditor or SACSCOC.  Full details and timelines can be found here:  https://www.apsu.edu/academic-course-and-program-development/academicprogrammodification.php  A summary table detailing the level of approval required for each type of curriculum change can be found here:  https://www.apsu.edu/academic-course-and-program-development/links/curricuar-development-auguat-26-2019.pdf

In particular, chairs should note that at APSU all changes (including course description changes and prerequisite changes) require, at a minimum, approval of the department, department chair, college curriculum committee, college dean, university curriculum committee, and Provost.   As indicated above, all curriculum proposals are entered, routed, tracked, and approved through the Curriculog software.  You may want to delegate the entering and monitoring of these proposals to the chair(s) of your department curriculum committee(s).

Launching new programs to meet the needs of our community, state, and region is an important strategic function of each college.  Resources for this process can be found here: https://www.apsu.edu/academic-course-and-program-development/new-academic-program/index.php.  In the early planning stages you may particularly find this flow chart helpful:  https://www.apsu.edu/academic-course-and-program-development/new-academic-program/new-program-process.jpg.  As with more minor changes, at APSU the new program process is tracked through Curriculog.