Outcomes Assessment in Composition

Outcomes Assessment in Composition

assessment, program outcomes, curriculum, professional development
  • Assessment
Average: 3.8 (9 votes)
College of Southern Idaho (ID)

CSI is a comprehensive community college located in south central Idaho and serving the transfer, professional-technical, basic skills, dual credit and workforce needs of the surrounding eight-county region. CSI also partners with Idaho’s four-year institutions to offer more than 60 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees on campus.

  • Institutions


How to use a binding outcomes assessment in a lower division composition sequence to develop continuous improvement of curriculum and create alignment of instructional objectives and indicators of outcomes achievement.

  • Utilize a binding outcomes assessment process in lower division composition.

  • Use OA results as a key component of continuous program improvement.

  • Unify instruction not only in specific classes, but across program sequence (in this case, developmental composition through second semester freshman composition).


Outcomes Assessment is designed to assist in departmental program assessment and act as a measure of student proficiency at semester's end. The English Department has agreed upon a standard of proficiency, or a certain level of writing ability, that a student must achieve before she can pass out of certain English classes. We measure that proficiency by giving an essay "test" to all writing students in those courses. A student writes the Outcomes Assessment essay near the end of the course, after she has spent the semester honing her writing skills. The essay is read by two English faculty other than the student's instructor. Those faculty must agree that the essay meets the standards of proficiency for either 090 or 101 in order for the student to pass the class. A the end of the capstone composition course, English 102, students are required to hand in a portfolio of their coursework to be used in departmental program assessment.

The system is mature, the result of over 15 years of work on the part of department members. The system also encourages a culture of assessment in the department; composition instructors meet monthly to discuss curricular issues raised by assessment reading. Because everyone in the department can contribute to the system, it also promotes faculty acceptance, or “buy-in,” of the two models – thus, it has “teeth.”

The system is computer-based and accessible to both students and instructors. Students submit both OA essays and portfolios electronically; essay readers access assessment essays digitally, and when necessary, review readers access student portfolios digi


  • The system provides both short- and long-term statistics in various forms, including general summaries and comparative summaries of student performance. The long-term numbers provide a kind of audit trail tracing the progression of the composition program

The English Composition Outcome assessment Program has these outcomes:

• Ongoing longitudinal database.

• Curricular improvement using continuing improvement model.

• Strengthened program integrity.

• Program generates well-trained and rigorously evaluated students.

• A key component of outcomes assessment, program review, and continuous improvement.

A model for other programs and disciplines. • Program faculty communication more effectively about composition than before the OA process (share assignments, resources, ideas, and focus on “how to”). • Improve effective training of new faculty by involving them in the process at the start of their employ.


Web server with Microsoft operating system, adequate disk space for database tables and student essays, web access. Free Microsoft products form the basis for the software platform, but the system in its current state requires some specialized software. A faculty member must devote a varying percentage of his work day to maintaining and manipulating the system, particularly at assessment time (usually the end of a semester).

  • Server hardware: ~$2,000

  • Server operating system: ~$600

  • Specialized software: ~$3,200

  • In an overall sense, the system is worth the various trade-offs it demands. But constituents must accept the trade-offs in order for it to be effective.

  • On a smaller scale, it’s difficult to control all the things that can go wrong, especially when technology is involved. But as time goes on it becomes easier to deal with the issues when they come up.

The system will benefit from the work currently in progress to move it to a more robust database platform. The reporting functionality needs to be expanded as well. It could be adopted by other institutions relatively easily as it is.


Ken Bingham
Professor of English
College of Southern Idaho
315 Falls Avenue
P.O. Box 1238
Twin Falls, Idaho 83303
Phone: 208-732-6804


Jeff Fox
Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer
College of Southern Idaho
P.O. Box 1238
315 Falls Avenue
Twin Falls, Idaho 83303
Phone: 208-732-6220