Civic Capacity Assessment Cycle #1: A Narrative

In the spring of 2013, the SLO committee approached the Academic Senate to discuss our next ICC for assessment. After a brief presentation, attendees decided to develop a direct assessment strategy for the then-titled “Global, Cultural, Social and Environmental Awareness” (GCSEA) Institutional Core Competency (ICC). This was initially to be modeled on the approach taken to the Critical Thinking ICC: We would begin with a broad conversation amongst attendees at our annual convocation, summaries of which would then be distilled into a set of criteria for a rubric to be applied across disciplines/departments. 

Accordingly, it was decided that the 2013 convocation’s morning program would feature three prominent components. First, Veronica Neal and Cynthia Kaufman facilitated an in-depth conversation about the meaning of “Civic Capacity for Equity and Social Justice”. This was followed by a discussion panel comprised of faculty and staff with experience assessing features of the ICC under investigation. Finally, convocation attendees were asked to map out aims and assessments relevant to GCSEA in their own work with students.

The convocation, attended by over 100 faculty and staff, yielded several dozen documented conversations about GCSEA assessment across our academic divisions and staff departments. When these were reviewed by the SLO core team, however, it was decided that the data collected could not be effectively translated to a uniform set of criteria for a campus-wide assessment rubric. In the view of the SLO Core Team, submitted responses from the convocation reflected the same problems originally identified in the original ICC language: The majority of these responses focused exclusively on one of the GCSEA criteria without any reference to the others.

Over the course of the next several months of discussion, SLO Core Team members quickly came to realize that this ICC posed two deep difficulties for assessment: 

First, the language of the ICC itself was very broad in scope. As such, it was difficult to identify a central unifying concept as a target for assessment. After all, it seemed, one might conceivably facilitate student learning with respect to “environmental awareness” without ever addressing the global, social or cultural aspects of the ICC language.

Secondly, it seemed that “awareness” was an inappropriately low-order target of evaluation. A student who is merely aware of environmental hazards, but who knows nothing about how such hazards might be addressed, seems to satisfy this ICC language—but it did not satisfy our understanding of the aims of the De Anza mission statement.

To address these challenges, we more carefully examined the Mission Statement’s description of GCSEA for unifying concepts for assessment. Here we saw explicit mention of the concepts of citizenship and social justice, and recognized these have potential ties to each of the global, social, cultural and environmental aspects of the ICC. To better understand these potential ties, we met with members of De Anza’s Institute of Community and Civic Engagement and Office of Equity, Social Justice and Multicultural Education. As a result of these meetings, we settled on “Civic Capacity for Equity and Social Justice” as our unifying concept, and central target for assessment. This language, we felt, also addressed our second concern, as it shifted focus away from mere awareness, toward the higher-order goal of capacity.

In the light of this, the Core Team decided that the most sensible application of our attempted assessment would be to recommend a formal rewriting of the ICC. It is entirely acceptable, after all, for the assessment of a course-level SLO statement to result in the revision of the statement itself. As such, the Core Team submitted a recommendation to the Mission Statement Task Force that the “Global, Cultural, Social and Environmental Awareness” ICC be replaced with “Civic Capacity for Equity and Social Justice”. This was further refined by the Mission Statement Task Force to read, “Civic Capacity for Equity, Social Justice and Environmental Sustainability”, and presented to the Academic Senate, Classified Senate, De Anza Student Body and Equity Action Committee for suggestions and feedback.

The suggestion generated some vigorous discussion during several Academic Senate meetings in the spring of 2014. In the wake of a May 19th presentation from the SLO Committee to explain the motivation for seeking a change to the ICC language, the Academic Senate voted to adopt “Civic Capacity for Global, Cultural, Social and Environmental Justice” as the new ICC language. The change to the Mission Statement was approved by College Council on June 12, 2014.

With the new language in place, the SLO Committee looks forward to working collaboratively with the Institute of Community and Civic Engagement and Office of Equity, Social Justice and Multicultural Education in carrying out our next cycle of assessment. We anticipate that several of the assessments conducted by these bodies will serve as valuable indicators of student learning with respect to this Core Competency.

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