University of West Florida
Collaboration is Key
BY DEBBIE FORD and JIM HURD
In 2003, a work group was convened within the Division of
Student Affairs at the University of West Florida (UWF) to
develop student learning outcomes. The following year, when
the university was creating its Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP),
a significant component of accreditation, the leaders in student
affairs agreed to align the student learning outcomes with the
accreditation process adopted by academic affairs. The vice president and associate vice president for student affairs both served
on the QEP Leadership Committee, and the university was
commended by the accreditation visiting team for its integration
of student learning inside and outside of the classroom.
The first goal accomplished by student affairs leaders was to
develop divisional learning outcomes centered around the
knowledge, skills, and values that students gain from participation and exposure to programs and services. See examples of
UWF student affairs learning outcomes below; a full report can
be viewed on the UWF student affairs Web page at
• UWF students will know about the world of work, including
career possibilities, how to search for jobs, how to prepare
resumes, and professional expectations.
• UWF students will exhibit self-efficacy and self-regulatory
behavior, including decision-making abilities and organizational skills such as time management, budgeting, accurate
self assessments, and personal goal setting.
• UWF students will choose civic engagement activities and
demonstrate responsibility for the communities in which
they live and work.
Following adoption of divisional learning outcomes, student
affairs departments created specific outcomes for selected
programs and services. Staff acknowledged early in the process
that programs and services have varying degrees of learning,
program, and/or developmental outcomes. The following
The results begin with a short description of each instrument
as a foundation for identifying available assessment tools
related to student success. Descriptions, cost, and contact
information are all presented as a starting point for exploring
which instrument closely fits a specific assessment need.
Descriptions of the level and intensity of support required
for implementation, detailed information about the instruments themselves, developers’ recommendations for
implementation of the instruments, and summaries of the
type of data gathered and reported inform an institution’s
decision-making process in selecting a tool. The categorization
of the types of questions on each instrument correlates with
the kind of information related to student success that each
instrument generates. The presentation of findings in a
comparative interactive Web format is a sound starting point
for responding to information needs with detailed descriptions of instrument content, administration format, and,
ultimately, the appropriate use of the information generated.
• Students will demonstrate professional behavior during
• Students will explain what and how they have learned
through volunteer service and service learning.
In addition, departments developed rubrics to measure the
outcomes. A rubric, or set of scoring guidelines for evaluating
performance, allows the following questions to be answered:
• By what criteria should performance be judged?
• Where should we look and what should we look for to
judge performance criteria?
• What does the range in the quality of performance
• How should the different levels of quality be described and
distinguished from one another?
Rubrics to measure recognition and action, collaborative
work, respect and responsibility, professionalism, safety skills,
planning, teamwork skills, communication skills, and work
habits have been developed by student affairs departments. For
example, students who engage in service learning measure
their abilities to explain what they have learned from their experiences. The “Expressing Learning Through Service” rubric
defines levels as unsatisfactory, basic, proficient, and advanced.
The majority of student affairs departments at UWF have
documented learning outcomes and rubrics as part of their
assessment programs. Student affairs leaders at UWF believe
that the divisional learning outcomes, department learning
outcomes, and rubrics have enhanced programs and services
for students. The early research shows positive differences in
rubric scores from the fall to the spring semester. Necessary
modifications are currently being made to the rubrics and
Debbie Ford is vice president of student affairs at the University
of West Florida.
Jim Hurd is associate vice president of student affairs at the
University of West Florida.
A key consideration in the adoption of any assessment tool
should be the way in which systematically collected information will be utilized. In the final section of the review, findings
are presented regarding the intended and evaluated uses of
each assessment instrument. This element of the review
reports on three dimensions of inquiry: the extent to which an
instrument is, or is not, able to inform the process of
promoting student success, documenting program outcomes
associated with student success, and achieving student
learning outcomes generally; evidence and rationale to
demonstrate that an instrument has generated data to improve
specific programs, guide decision-making/judgment about
programs, or advance knowledge of student success generally;
and evidence that information generated from an instrument
has been applied to practice, policy, research, and program
evaluation. The strongest variation in assessment instruments
occurred in the use of information.