To assure ongoing excellence in achieving learning outcomes, an assessment process is undertaken by the LAEP Department. The learning objectives included in this process are identified in the learning objectives section of this website, as are the mapping of the intersection of the objectives with specific courses in the program. The Department’s Assessment Plan includes the following components:
LAAB Professional Accreditation Standards
As a program with nationally accredited BLA and MLA degrees, LAEP has its performance systematically reviewed by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB). The program was provisionally accredited in 1966, and fully accredited in 1968. The BLA has been continuously accredited since that time. Since becoming the 19th accredited program in North America, LAEP has had both the undergraduate and graduate degrees accredited. The degrees will again be assessed in the spring of 2011. LAAB conducts on-campus accreditation reviews that focus upon the following assessment areas:
- Program mission and objectives
- Professional curriculum
- Relation to the university and the community
- Facilities and equipment
LAAB assessments constitute the most rigorous, thorough, and universally accepted measures of performance in our discipline. The 2005 review team’s report constituted 17 pages of discussions of the above assessment areas. Their report was, in part, a summary finding from their review of LAEP’s self-report, an all-encompassing, 300+ page document. While the entirety of the self-report and review are forms of assessment, standards 3 and 7 are particularly central to USU’s goals for program assessment.
Advisory Board Review
In 2001, LAEP established an independent panel of practitioners, academics and alumni to partner in assuring excellence in the program’s operations. In 2008, over three-dozen members constituted the LAEP Advisory Board. In addition to committee functions, the Board holds an annual all-day meeting on campus. During that event members of the Advisory Board assess the program via the following activities:
- Interviews with students from each class level, including MLA students
- General review of BLA/MLA students on their readiness to enter practice
- Review of curricula for applicability to current standards and emphases in professional practice
During the course of the year members of the Advisory Board also assess the
program via the following activities:
- Reporting by Advisory Board members on recently graduated students and their performance in professional practice
Design education places a high priority on public critiques of design and planning solutions. LAEP courses annually integrate juried student presentations in studio classes as a means to utilize this most enduring of design assessment devices. Juries routinely include adjunct faculty, visiting scholars, off-campus professionals, alumni, and community stakeholders, as well as department faculty. Juries emphasize core areas of skill development, as well as the student’s command of specific course learning objectives. Juried presentations typically integrate a graded component, and may include written evaluations.
Students seeking entry to the BLA program undertake a matriculation process that includes the preparation and review of a personal design portfolio. The document provides the student an opportunity to highlight the creative competencies acquired during their freshman and sophomore years. It provides LAEP an opportunity to assess the capstone work of students who have completed the first half of the BLA. The LAEP faculty reviews the portfolios, evaluating each for demonstration of the following qualities:
- Creative potential
- Problem solving skills
- Graphic fluency, and
- Aptitude for visual thinking and design
Portfolio Guidelines (see at Assessment) for submission of the portfolio are provided for students and are reviewed by the LAEP Faculty. The guidelines were last updated in 2009.
Internal Curriculum Review
An internal review of courses and a sampling of their student projects that were compared to the learning objectives was conducted in 2006. Findings from the review were integrated into the BLA curriculum. The next internal curriculum review will occur in spring of 2011, following the LAAB review team report. Informal internal curriculum review occurs annually through discussions at the LAEP annual retreat.
During 2009, LAEP explored means for implementing a rubric as a core component of the department’s Assessment Plan. Following study of design and non-design discipline rubrics, a pilot device was created. The 2009/2010 academic year will be the first the rubric is implemented. Study of assessment device implementation across the 4-year BLA revealed a dearth of examination at the juncture between the 3rd and 4th years. It was determined that a rubric would be effective in assessing program success at that point. LAEP 3120 was identified as the optimal implementation point for this assessment. Specifically, the capstone design project for the course incorporates the broadest array of competency areas and thus is the preferred product through which to apply the rubric. It was also determined that the rubric would be ideal for assessing the specific competency areas defined in the BLA Learning Objectives. Hence the rubric (see at Assessment) is derived from those nine objectives, and utilizes four competency assessment levels. The rubric will be administered by three LAEP Faculty members, excluding the course instructor. A randomly selected sampling of fifteen projects will be assessed using the rubric.
Interviews were included in the 2006 review of program assessment. While steps were not previously taken to implement interviews, in 2008/2009 a 2-part exit interview involving a conversational interview, and a 4-page written survey (see at Assessment). The latter is based upon the instruments used by a host of departments at USU and elsewhere. It integrates assessment objectives previously outlined by the department. Graduating BLA and MLA students were contacted before departing USU to arrange interviews. A one-on-one interview with the Department Head includes open-ended discussion regarding the student’s experience in the program. Specifically, the following questions are posed:
- How well do you believe the department achieved its mission statement?
- How well did each departmental course meet its stated objectives?
- What courses failed to meet their objectives? And why?
- Was the sequencing of courses appropriate? If not, why?
- What suggestions would you make to improve the curriculum?
- Do you have any general comments or observations?