Each graduate program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, with input from the graduate faculty, establishes student learning outcomes, designs courses appropriate to achieving those outcomes, and assesses student achievement of those outcomes using methods appropriate to the discipline.
Levels and measures of assessment
Graduate outcomes assessment occurs on three levels:
- Course level: learning objectives for individual courses
- Program level: through graduate program review
- Institutional level
Both direct and indirect measures are used as a means to assessing graduate student outcomes. For the most part, measures to assess graduate outcomes (such as qualifying and comprehensive exams, graduate seminar presentations, publications, and the thesis/dissertation defense) are embedded into graduate education.
Additional methods of assessment
- The Annual Review Process (APR) allows the University to assess the effectiveness of a graduate program.
- Annual Graduate Program Profile Reports provide data for each graduate program, including quality indicators for applying, admitting, and enrolling students as well as enrollment. A rolling five-year average for each program is made available to graduate program chairs, department chairs/ heads, deans, and associate deans.
- Academic Progress Reports allow graduate programs to track student academic progress by gathering information on performance indicators such as time-to-degree, funding, and completion of certain milestones.
- Annual Graduate Student Exit Survey measures students' opinions about their experiences at the University and the graduate program. The Graduate Exit Survey is administered through SurveyMonkey.com three times each year. All Master's and doctoral students at the University of Nebraska Lincoln are asked to participate in the Graduate School Exit Survey immediately following their graduate commencement. The survey consists of 27 to 32 questions, depending on the degree program and experience (e.g., students who were teaching assistants (TAs) are presented with additional follow-up questions). Students are asked about their overall satisfaction with their academic experience and professional development, quality of mentoring, and career plans. Nine broad learning outcomes related to graduate education are also identified and students are asked to indicate the level of preparation provided by their graduate program.
Graduate program outcomes assessment: Representative examples
Faculty in the Masters of Business Administration adopted a program mission statement that explicitly incorporates ethical leadership, and new learning outcomes (and metrics) are being developed to be included in all MBA course syllabi.
The Graduate Program Review Committee conducted an internal review of the Chemistry graduate program. As a result, changes to program completion requirements were implemented and a new graduate specialization in Chemistry Teaching at the Postsecondary Level was developed and approved.
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Faculty have defined outcomes for the PhD program and identified metrics to assess student outcomes. These include both direct and indirect measures, most of which are embedded into the graduate program (qualifying, comprehensive, and final exams, dissertation, publications). The outcomes and assessment measures are described in the graduate student handbook.
As a result of the annual program review, faculty implemented a more systematic yearly review process for graduate teaching assistants, leading to increased transparency related to expectations as well as accountability.
Faculty identified a set of graduate learning outcomes and are now conducting a gap analysis to align the graduate curriculum and experiential learning opportunities with the graduate learning outcomes.
Faculty convened a departmental retreat to review the PhD and MA programs and discuss assessment issues. The end result: streamlined requirements and a more coherent curriculum that connects to diverse job skills.
Faculty examined the graduate recruitment, application, and admission process and made several changes that clarified the program's purpose and requirements. A core set of courses was developed that included increased research and statistics requirements in addition to a sequence of leadership courses designed to help students become advanced scholars in the study and practice of leadership.
Faculty identified outcomes for the graduate program. The Purpose of a Doctorate in Mathematics outlines the graduate outcomes in Math and are explicitly stated in the Department of Mathematics Graduate Handbook.
Nutrition and Health Sciences
As a result of a focused self-assessment, the faculty updated their Graduate Policies and Procedures handbook to explicitly address expectations related to professional development, research, and ethical behavior. Faculty created a professional development graduate course designed to address the expectations.
Faculty created a shared vision for what graduate students should gain from the program, and are restructuring the graduate curriculum to ensure that students have the training needed to be highly successful along multiple career paths. One key goal is the development of a coherent and efficient multi-year course rotation. Faculty are revising the graduate program assessments and requirements and are seeking additional ways to enhance their graduate student training.
Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design
All TMFD graduate students are required to demonstrate their mastery of a mode of inquiry or creative work by researching, preparing and presenting a final product (i.e. thesis, exhibition, runway show or gallery show) to which the public is invited.
Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Faculty defined requirements for graduate student training in ethics and responsible conduct, as listed in their Guidelines for Graduate Students. All graduate students in the program are required to complete two courses on RCR. Certificates of completion are tracked and included in students' files.