Assessment of Student Learning

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A liberal arts education includes both wide exploration in general education and focused study within a major. Burlington College has established learning goals for general education and assesses each student’s fulfillment of those goals through a combination of coursework, a portfolio of original work compiled for the midpoint assessment, and a capstone project (Degree Project) completed during the final year. In general education we stress four fundamental learning skills that students use across the disciplines: written communication, oral communication, critical thinking, and research methods. The college also sets learning goals that reflect traditional elements of the liberal arts, such as historical consciousness and scientific thought, along with others that are more specific to our mission, such as responsible action and creative expression (see Degree Requirements section). All students must complete the Midpoint Assessment (at or near the time they earn 60 credits) by submitting a portfolio of original work that demonstrates proficiency in the fundamental learning Skills. Midpoint Assessment is officially triggered by enrollment in Research and Reflection, a course that supports the development of the portfolio. A portfolio review committee reads each portfolio and assesses student progress relative to these specified goals. Student’s continuation in the B.A. program is based in part on the assessment of the portfolio. Consideration is also given to the student’s success in courses and the academic advisor’s perspective, and the College makes the final determination with respect to the adequacy of student academic progress. The Student Handbook for Outcomes Assessment (available electronically and in paper form) describes these processes in greater depth. (Please see additional information under Midpoint Assessment Policies and Assessments in Writing and Mathematics below.)

Assessments in Writing and Mathematics
When students enter the College, we assess their proficiency in writing and quantitative reasoning for placement purposes. Our writing staff reviews each student’s application essay(s). Students may fulfill the College’s requirements in quantitative reasoning with an adequate score on the assessment test, which is offered during New Student Orientation week. Students must take it or be placed into a math course. No academic credit is awarded for successful completion of these tests. Students who transfer in credits for equivalent coursework at a comparable level may be exempted from the requirements and do not have to take the quantitative reasoning assessment.

Writing Assessment:
We assess the writing of all entering students to assist in placement in courses. Entry-level work in writing (or a portfolio) must be completed during the student’s first two semesters. It is possible for students to be exempted from GEN171-Writing for College II and/or GEN270-Research and Reflection by submitting a research paper for assessment. Consult with your advisor about specifics. Students who have earned an associate’s degree from the Community College of Vermont must either take GEN270-Research and Reflection or apply for exemption by submitting a 10- to 20-page research paper for assessment by the writing specialist. If a student is exempted from GEN270-Research and Reflection, the student is also exempted from the Midpoint Portfolio process.

Quantitative Reasoning (Math) Assessment:
This assessment is given to incoming campus students at scheduled times at the beginning of the semester, often during New Student Orientation or at residencies. We measure competence in three areas—mathematical skills, conceptual understanding, and problem solving—using a 0 to 5 scoring scale. If a student receives more fours and fives than threes or below, he or she places out of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement. All others must take one of the two courses in mathematics: Probabilities and Statistics, which is designed for students in the social sciences, or Social Choices in Mathematics, which is designed for students in the other majors.