Mason’s assessment approach is adapted from a successful course portfolio system developed by the College of William and Mary. Course portfolios serve three purposes:
Course portfolio assessment at Mason began in 2008-09 and has been implemented as an ongoing review of Mason Core courses across the categories. Courses in the respective categories are assessed on a six-year cycle, with adjustments in this schedule made as needed.
Who will Submit a Course Portfolio?
When a Mason Core category is under review, all faculty, regardless of appointment status, who teach an approved course or section during fall and spring semesters may be required to submit a course portfolio. For courses with multiple sections, the Office of Institutional Assessment selects a random sample of those sections. For faculty who teach the same course in both fall and spring semesters, or who teach multiple sections of a course, only one course portfolio is required. Faculty on 9-month term, adjunct, teaching assistant, and post-doc appointments are eligible for a modest honorarium for completing a portfolio.
Major Components of a Course Portfolio
An electronic course portfolio has the following components:
1. Course/Section Syllabus. The syllabus must include learning outcomes from the Mason Core category in addition to course-specific learning outcomes. Reviewers also look for the following information in the syllabus:
2. Course Assignments/Projects. Provide the instructions for the assignments/projects that address or assess the Mason Core learning outcomes. The assignments/projects may take different forms, e.g., individual/group papers, lab reports, websites developed by students, presentations, performances, videos, essay/short answer exams, multiple-choice exams, etc. Along with these, faculty are also required to submit: grading guides, checklists or rubrics, if available (not answer keys for the exams).
3. Course Map. The course map identifies the activities and assignments that are being used to address the learning outcomes, as well as the activities or strategies that are used to assess learning. The map also asks how well students demonstrated achievement of the learning outcomes based on the following levels of competence: highly competent, competent, marginally competent, and less than competent. A template is available in an Excel spreadsheet.
4. Samples of Student Work. From among the assignments/projects, select one assignment and provide actual examples of student work. Typically, this is a final project in which students demonstrate their achievement of one or more primary learning outcomes.
5. Faculty Statement. A 1-2 page narrative, focused on the following questions:
Who will Review Course Portfolios?
A review team composed of members of the Mason Core Committee and appointed faculty will review each course portfolio using a common review rubric. At the end, the review team assigns a single rating for each course/section. The rating reflects the extent to which the course provides the learning experiences that result in specified student learning outcomes. Again, this review is not an evaluation of the instructor, but of the course’s demonstrated alignment with the respective Mason Core category. Review results are sent to the Mason Core Committee, individual faculty, and the appropriate department chairs.
What Happens after the Portfolio Review?
The reviewers’ ratings are used in the following ways:
The ratings are not meant to be used by chairs, deans, or the Provost as elements in merit pay or reappointment, or in promotion and tenure dossiers. Course portfolios focus on the alignment of a course with the institution-wide Mason Core outcomes and goals. In some cases, a faculty member may receive recommendations from the department chair regarding course improvement. In a very few cases, and only after consultation with the relevant department, it is possible that the Mason Core Committee may remove a course from the approved Mason Core inventory. Departments may also initiate the withdrawal of a course from the inventory. Such actions are not intended as evaluation of, or commentary on the value and effectiveness of a particular course or instructor; many outstanding courses meet learning outcomes for a specific discipline, but may not be suitable for inclusion in the university’s Mason Core program.
Technology Support for Electronic Course Portfolios
All course portfolios are stored in Blackboard, protected by password. Faculty members have access to their own portfolio only. The review team members, Mason Core Committee members, and staff from the Office of Institutional Assessment have access to all portfolios. An outstanding portfolio may be made available to the university community with the faculty member’s consent.
A “course” (with a generic name such as “Mason Core – Arts,” “Mason Core – Literature,” etc.) is automatically assigned to the faculty members who are required to submit a portfolio. Faculty are, in Blackboard terminology, “students” in that course. They are instructed to upload portfolio items under the designated “assignments” of that “course.” The Office of Institutional Assessment provides technical support for creating electronic course portfolios.