Program Spotlight

The Long Road of Assessment Continues
By Associate Dean, Phyllis Zadra

The best way to characterize the assessment process in the Zicklin Undergraduate program is to think about the impact it has made on the lives of students and faculty over the last several years. In 2004 we began to create learning goals in order to meet the new accreditation standards of AACSB. At that time we had no idea how powerful this process would be. Although our faculty were thoughtful in describing the skills and abilities that be would desirable for Zicklin undergraduates, truth be told we had no idea how those learning goals would affect student performance, course structuring, or classroom environments.

I could talk about each of the assessments that have been completed in the undergraduate program and include details about the method and structure of those assessments, but the first paragraph would probably send you looking for another article. Rather I would like to describe some of the changes that have been made in the Zicklin undergraduate program because our faculty embraced the notion of continuous improvement as the key element in the assessment process.

First and foremost the BBA Learning Assurance Committee has taken its charge -- “to implement the assessment process”-- seriously. These faculty/committee members have educated themselves and each other about the skills and proficiencies BBA graduates need to have. They have looked for creative ways to evaluate student performance on these skills, they have embraced the process whole-heartedly, and they have accepted the results. The committee members did not look for an “off-the-shelf test” that would be easy to give and easy to forget. They did not look for a way to make our students look better than they are. Instead they struggled to create appropriate evaluation tools that could be scored by independent evaluators. They pilot-tested the tools and administered them to many Zicklin upperclassmen, and believed and accepted the results. Then, most importantly, the committee provided the leadership and inspiration that has led to curricular changes in the Zicklin undergraduate program.

To put it in a nutshell, the BBA Learning Assurance Committee (as an arm of the Zicklin faculty) stepped up and spoke up. The membership said there was no point in going through the motions of learning assurance unless there would be sincere efforts to make meaningful changes in our students’ performance. The committee challenged Dean Elliott and the department chairs to provide tangible faculty incentives to improve the teaching/learning environment at the Zicklin School. That challenge resulted in the first Summer Seminar (2007) for nine Zicklin faculty. These participants (supervisors of pre-business and business core courses) were charged with reading a number of books on student learning, making more active classroom environments, and revamping their courses to provide more opportunities for students to write, speak and analyze problems. They tested out their new assignments on each other and then in their classrooms. Finally, they were required to work with colleagues in their department teaching the same course to ensure that these “active learning” assignments were integrated into all sections.

The results of the first summer seminar were extremely rewarding. Significant changes occurred in Accounting 2101, CIS 2200, Law 1101, Finance 3000, and Marketing 3000. Departments began to talk about teaching and curriculum design at faculty meetings and some departments held special meetings to discuss new teaching strategies and assignments. Faculty who worked together during the summer developed strong bonds with one another.

Based on the success of the first summer seminar, the Provost and Dean supported a second seminar in 2008. Again, nine faculty participated. This time eight were from the Zicklin School. Once again, courses and faculty were carefully chosen. We wanted to include the remaining pre-business core courses and other Zicklin courses with large enrollments. Our mission remained to create a significant, sustained impact on the Zicklin curriculum by working with faculty who would influence their colleagues in the next several semesters. By summer 2008 we had collected additional assessments and knew that there were deficiencies in our students’ technological skills.

As the Summer Seminar of 2008 progressed, we became increasingly aware of the challenges facing instructors of upper level courses. The need for better integration within our entire curriculum was clear. The earlier courses must provide a foundation for material in the more advanced courses and faculty needed to be aware of which courses preceded the ones they teach. The summer seminar of 2008 resulted in: 1) a plan to improve the standardization of all Statistics 2000 sections including the number of spreadsheet assignments; 2) the decision to refocus Law 3102; and 3) a vision to effectively implement communication intensive assignments into Accounting 4100. It also crystallized ways in which large lectures courses of 300 students could effectively use interactive pedagogy. Once again faculty who did not previously know each other formed close bonds in an effort to help improve their courses.

Some of the results of these two seminars may be hard to measure. An “esprit de corps” by faculty who now know there are fellow travelers concerned about teaching and learning is not easily quantifiable, but it is apparent to administrators, other faculty and students. Classrooms increasingly open areas for discussion and small group work and faculty increasingly taking advantage of the support offered by the Schwartz Communication Institute, the Writing Center and the Student Academic Counseling Center (SACC) certainly contribute to improved student performance. Of course, there are quantifiable measurements, too. Oral assessment skills evaluated in spring 2009 (in Business Policy 5100) were uniformly higher (on all 12 subgoals) than a comparable evaluation in spring 2006. Overall students are performing significantly better on their oral presentations in Business Policy. The increase in oral communication assignments throughout the curriculum has played an important role in these results. But for me the fundamental factor is the faculty’s reinvigorated commitment to ensure that Baruch BBA students have the opportunities necessary to develop into outstanding graduates. Our Zicklin faculty have accepted responsibility for student learning and are changing their classrooms to make it happen.

Dean's Quick Poll

Past Newsletter Archive
Contact the Office of the Dean:
Newman Vertical Campus, Room 13-260
One Bernard Baruch Way, New York, NY 10010
Telephone: 646-312-3030