Learning through Outcomes Assessment in College Foreign Language Programs

Watanabe, Yukiko
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 2016]
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Increasingly, college foreign language (FL) programs in the U.S. engage in program-level student learning outcomes assessment due to institutional accreditation requirements to ensure educational quality and effectiveness. However, many FL programs struggle to engage in assessment practices that result in useful decisions and actions. This dissertation was motivated by the realities of outcomes assessment under-utlization, and was informed by the Alkin and Taut’s (2003) taxonomy of factors that impact utilization of evaluation results (i.e., findings use) and benefits of evaluation engagement (i.e., process use). The study examined the processes and differential impact of outcomes assessment among eight college FL programs which ranged in their prior assessment experiences from none to extensive. Employing a longitudinal multi-case mixed-methods design, the study sought to identify factors that facilitated or hindered the way assessment was initiated, implemented, and utilized in the programs. Data collection included pre-post faculty assessment capacity surveys, stakeholder interviews, participatory assessment meeting observations, focus groups, and document analyses. The survey data indicated that among various factors, the key variables that predicted assessment success were participants’ willingness, as well as their needs and ability, to engage in assessment that went beyond external accountability pressures (i.e., proactive ownership of assessment). Additonally, because assessment necessiates faculty dialogues and collaboration, programs with leadership challenges and lack of cross-rank collaboration experienced setback in assessment implmentation. Extensive and varied types of process uses were observed regardless of the level of assessment capacity; however, findings use remained to be a challenge in programs with less data processing capacity. The findings imply the importance of examining organizational readiness and needs for outcomes assessment prior to implementation. Alignment of assessment foci and departmental priorities is key in framing assessment as a meaningful endeavor and to foster faculty buy-in. Moreover, localized support for instrumentation, data gathering, and interpretation are much needed in FL programs, and such support needs to be included in the cost of assessment and be advocated for by the program leadership. In conclusion, the current study illuminated the context adaptive nature of assessment processes and the organizational, individual, and program transformations triggered by the assessment activities and findings.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2016.
Includes bibliographical references.
outcomes assessment, utilization-focused evaluation, foreign language, mixedmethod, findings use, process use
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Second Language Studies
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