Assessing a Co-Curriculum

Co-curriculum refers to the organization of typically disparate events, programs and activities outside of the classroom into targeted learning experiences. Participation in co-curricular events helps students grow their self-efficacy and critical thinking skills, among many others, but this change is unlikely to be witnessed after just one hour-long evening program. It is the compilation of a variety of co-curricular experiences that develops these skills. Rather than hoping student learning occurs across a random assortment of co-curricular offerings, many campuses are aligning their programming to divisional learning outcomes and more strategically directing students to defined engagement opportunities.

The next step is to close the loop around assessing the effectiveness of the curriculum as a whole in meeting the expected outcomes. Campus Labs Engage offers Co-Curricular pathing tools that allow programs to track student progress through a flexible and designed array of learning experiences, at scale. Embedding reflection opportunities directly into the learning process can also help to understand not only if individual events are meeting intended outcomes, but if combinations and series of experiences can lead to greater learning. We found Fairleigh Dickinson University’s School of Pharmacy & Health Sciences to be among the top examples of closing the loop partly due to their alignment of their co-curricular path design with their accreditation model.

Fairleigh Dickinson University’s School of Pharmacy & Health Sciences

The School of Pharmacy & Health Sciences offers a Doctor of Pharmacy 4-year program that combines traditional classroom learning with a variety of out-of-the-classroom hands-on experiential learning opportunities. After completing a curriculum map gap analysis against their accreditation standards and forming a Co-Curricular Committee, the college created a Co-Curricular Path of their out-of-the-classroom opportunities. The committee—inclusive of staff ranging from Deans of Student Affairs to clinical faculty—decided to map co-curricular experiences to the Center for the Advancement of Pharmacy Education (CAPE) learning outcomes.

Creating the Co-Curriculum

Path overview chart

With one co-curricular path domain tied to each CAPE learning outcome, the committee next reviewed co-curricular events for inclusion in the path and sorted them into the five domains. The path requires students to attend one event per domain per year with the option to substitute key defined experiences for event attendance in some domains. Program advisors monitor students’ progress and failure to complete the path is reflected in students’ course completion.

Assessing the Path

The Co-Curriculum committee created an assessment plan for their program prior to its launch. In addition to attending events and submitting reflections for self-reported experiences, students are also required to complete an assessment at the end of each semester. The assessment measures students along the 5 CAPE outcomes and this data, combined with progress tracking through Engage, allows the college to recognize the types of experiences most impactful on learning outcome attainment as well as any gaps in their overall curriculum design.

The assessment plan outlines specific metrics to success, goals for those metrics and responsible parties for collection and analysis of each metric. To take it a step further, the plan also identifies parties responsible for making decisions using various data gained through the path in order to guide the data dissemination and action process.

The School of Pharmacy & Health Sciences also provided both aggregate and individual student-level data in their accreditation reporting.

P1 Student Engagement (Co2022) chart

The Impact

After reviewing the data from their first year administering the co-curriculum, the committee made several key changes to the program:

  1. The college expanded its communication about the program, creating additional brochures detailing examples of self-reported experiences, adding additional information to the path itself about the learning outcomes addressed within each domain, and expanding faculty training.
  2. After determining how valuable the in-person faculty advisor meetings were to expanding learning developed in the co-curriculum, the Co-Curriculum Committee made faculty advisor meetings required in the program’s second year.
  3. The college learned that fewer events were being hosted within some domains and decided to expand their programming in those areas in the following year, while other domains had many events, but weren’t being well attended, often due to conflict with student schedules.

Interested in learning more?

Hear Trish Lemmerman, Director for Student Affairs & Community Engagement at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences share more about the program in the following webinar:

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