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The Assessment Challenge: A Conversation

Those of us who teach history at the post-secondary level know full well that our students are learning history and acquiring an understanding of how the past ties with the present… But we are not inclined to document what we do …we see no need to underscore the obvious. However, others do, and since they do and since what they do could profoundly affect history teaching, we historians must establish clear criteria for what we want our students to learn. We must write, distribute and post syllabi that clearly present student learning outcomes and clear explanations of the pathways by which students can meet our learning outcomes. We must also provide clear and compelling evidence that our students are learning history in such a way that they meet the general outcomes for learning set by our institutions in manners that are consistent with our institution’s mission statement and general standards. 

Correcting the Course: The Assessment Loop
2007 National Conference of the Community College Humanities Association
© Maureen Murphy Nutting, Ph.D.
North Seattle Community College

Overview ~ As part of the Gatekeeper courses at SAC, the History Department participated in a Raul S. Murguía Learning Institute Best Practices in Teaching program in Spring 2008. Assessment was a topic of interest. The intent of The Assessment Challenge: A Conversation site is to provide aggregated resources to enhance our dialogue on this vital issue and its implications for teaching and learning history at SAC. 

Department instructors are encouraged to use the Listserv as a forum for discussing effective and practical ways of using assessment for improving student learning, meeting SACS Accreditation Standards, and considering formative ways to assess courses.  

Institutional Perspectives 

  • History Department
    • Program Review and data collection; standard department syllabi that include Learning Outcomes and Performance Objective / Measurements  
    • Excel templates for calculating student assessment information: HIST1301_model-template & HIST 1302_model-template (templates may be modified for other courses).

      Data tab sheet
      1) Enter individual instructor information at top of Excel sheet (double click in cell).
      2) Enter X for each successfully completed outcome (70% or better).
      3) After all outcome and grade calculation entries are made, final class outcomes will automatically post in green section at bottom of sheet.

        Outcomes tab sheet
      1) three outcomes are measured by critical thinking competency.
      2) Enter individual instructor measurement in column D for each of the three Learning outcomes.
    • Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Course Redesign Project Phase III RFQ -(NOT selected for funding) Course Design for 21st Century Students ~ America in the World: A Global Dialogue, submitted by History Department April 2007. Although our project was not selected for funding, the SAC History Department rfp process and our proposal offer a proactive insight on HIST 1301 and HIST 1302 course redesign using the latest technology to upgrade course materials and presentation of learning activities.  
    • A department HIST 1301 and HIST 1302 course syllabus wassubmitted for evaluation as part of the Texas College Readiness Project in the area of Social Studies.  
    • See the Texas College and Career Readiness Standards, Adopted by the THECB, January 24,2008 (1.5 MB, PDF) ~ Select standards link, then scroll to end of page and click on last item under Commissioner's name. Social Studies Standards page 97 - 106. Dr. Jonathan A. Lee, SAC History, Humanities & Anthropology Department, co-chaired the Social Studies team on this vital project.  
    • The state standards page: includes link to color-coded multiple revisions of High School instrument.  
    • See link to Texas College & Career Readiness Program -
  • San Antonio College and Alamo Community Colleges  

Resources for Assessment Standards  


  • National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Conference, May 2008
    • History Department Faculty, Carol A. Keller and Jonathan A. Lee attended as Excellence Award Recipients  
    • Preconference Seminar, Fundamentals of Good Assessment: Student Learning Outcomes, Cathrael Kazin, Director, Strategic Relations, Higher Education Division, Educational Testing Service (ETS) ~ view PowerPoint presentation - covers multiple-choice and open ended questions writing with a focus on student learning outcomes and how to use tests and question-writing to achieve curriculum goals.  
    • RUB Initiative of Organizational Change for the Texas State Technical College System, PDF of PowerPoint slides from Bill Segura, Chancellor and Lucy McGregor, Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives, includes information on the challenges of transforming organizations and the TSTC process and solution.  
    • University of Central Florida, CIO, Joel L. Hartman's session, What do We Know About Our Net Generation Students? was lively and packed. He provides a fresh look at generational analysis popularized by William Strauss & Neil Howe.  
    • Back to Basics: Improving College Readiness of Community College Students is a Legislative Analyst's (LAO) report on California Community Colleges deficiencies in providing "basic skills" to their students. A quick read of the Executive Summary and Recommendations section indicates a need for structural and system change.  
    • Another interesting session from a Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) panel discussed, among other things, the issue of Branding in their recent Brand Equity Study conducted to measure the public's general awareness of the DCCCD - includes Executive Summary and Strategic Considerations.  
  • National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Conference, May 2009
    • Using LASSI As A Measure of Student Learning Outcomes in FYS , NISOD, 2009 PowerPoint presentation by Lisa Black, LMSW, and David Wood, PhD, Assistant Professor’s at San Antonio College. Black and Wood describe the LASSI process, usage at San Antonio College, and examine trends /analysis of assessment outcomes.  

Assessment Instruments 

  • The National Survey of Student Engagement established in 1988 sponsors several instruments; the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE) among others. 

  • The Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) promises “ an innovative approach to assessing your institution’s contribution to student learning developed by CAE with the RAND Corporation. Our measures are designed to simulate complex, ambiguous situations that every successful college graduate may one day face. Life is not like a multiple choice test, with four or five simple choices for every problem. So we ask students to analyze complex material and provide written responses. The CLA measures are uniquely designed to test for reasoning and communications skills that most agree should be one outcome of a college education.” 

  • The Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) provides a much-needed tool for assessing quality in community college education. CCSSE results help colleges focus on good educational practice — defined as practice that promotes high levels of student learning and retention — and identify areas in which community colleges can improve their programs and services for students. All our work is grounded in research about what works in strengthening student learning and persistence.  
  • CLASSE (Classroom Survey of Student Engagement) - "A two-part survey instrument that enables one to compare what engagement practices faculty particularly value and perceive important in a designated class with how frequently students report these practices occurring in the class." - CLASSE - The Missing Link?  

Other Colleges 

Federal, State, Professional Organizations, and Think Tank links  

  • The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching: Toward Informative Assessment and a Culture of Evidence (2009) by Lloyd Bond, A report from Strengthening Pre-collegiate Education in Community Colleges (SPECC). Stanford, CA., 2009. Availability: PDF Version
    Abstract: In “Toward Informative Assessment Assessment and a Culture of Evidence,” Bond discusses the data gathered over the course of the SPECC project and reflects on the need for new ways to measure student learning. The report includes an Appendix with tables showing success, retention and persistence data for each of the 11 SPECC campuses.

  • United States Department of Education, under Secretary Margaret Spellings, report, “A Test of Leadership: Charting the Course of American Higher Education.” 

  • Texas College Readiness Standards, Adopted by the THECB, January 24,2008 (1.5 MB, PDF) ~ Social Studies Standards page 113 - 124 

  • The League for Innovation in the Community College: White Paper - An assessment framework for the community college: Measuring student learning and achievement as a means of demonstrating institutional effectiveness.  

  • Communities of Learning, Inquiry, and Practice (CLIPs), InSites has a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant and " is conducting an action research study at Bakersfield College in California. It is about the use of Communities of Learning, Inquiry, and Practice (CLIPs) to actively engage community college faculty in answering important questions they have about teaching and learning while enhancing their evaluative inquiry skills, knowledge, and attitudes as well as enhancing their relationships with other faculty. We now have seven online learning modules about CLIPs ready for interested community colleges to use.  

  • American Association for Higher Education (AAHEA), the oldest association in the United States dedicated to the advancement of higher education, sponsors assessment research.
  • Since 1920, the American Association of Community Colleges has been called the "voice of America's community colleges." The Association represents and advocates for more than 1,200 associate-degree granting institutions enrolling more than 12 million students – almost half of all U.S. undergraduates.
  • ETS's Policy Information Center, America's Perfect Storm: Three Forces Changing Our Nation's Future, 2007, looks at the convergence of three powerful socioeconomic forces that are changing our nation's future: substantial disparities in skill levels (reading and math), seismic economic changes (widening wage gaps), sweeping demographic shifts (less education, lower skills).
  • Texas Community College Teachers Association members come from all public and independent two-year colleges in Texas. TCCTA is the largest organization of post secondary educators in Texas  

The Assessment Technology Industry 

  • CPS: Classroom Performance System and eInstruction - CPS makes lectures dynamic by giving instant feedback, “instead of trying to gauge the class' comprehension from one or two students, you can poll the entire class. Having real-time data gives you more control over your lectures and allows you to adjust on the fly for each class. CPS also streamlines administrative tasks. Attendance and grading are automated, and any data you collect can be streamed to Blackboard.  
  • Blackboard Outcomes System - “helps institutions efficiently meet the demand for increased accountability and drive academic improvement with evidence-based decisions. This powerful academic effectiveness solution extends your familiar, easy-to-use Blackboard environment to support a culture of assessment and campus-wide excellence. The system makes planning and assessment easier and evidence-based by helping institutions achieve: improved student learning and academic effectiveness, more efficient assessment and easier accreditation, increased faculty engagement in assessment.”  

  • WEAVEonline promises “The power, convenience, and efficiency of the web supporting your planning, assessment, and improvement processes at all levels of the institution.”  
  • Class Climate by Scantron is a course evaluation feedback system that enables automated, high-volume evaluations of courses, study programs and departments without the time and money of laborious data collection and reporting. Universities, corporate training departments and other educational institutions will gain measurable feedback regarding attendee interest levels and instructor performance.  
  • Tk20 CampusTools CampusWide “is a comprehensive assessment and reporting system for collecting and managing your program, departmental, and institutional data, both academic and non-academic, for the measurement of accountability, institutional effectiveness, and for accreditation.”  
  • Accountability Management System (AMS) by Taskstream “promotes campus-wide collaboration and communication regarding institutional effectiveness, in part, by providing a communication and resource hub for all of an institution's accountability, outcomes assessment, and continuous improvement initiatives.”  


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