Radiologic Technology, July/August 2015, Volume 86, Number 6

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JRCERT Update
Assessment: Working Backward
Stephanie Eatmon, EdD, R.T.(R)(T), FASRT
D
eveloping a student learning assessment plan
for an imaging, radiation therapy, or medical
dosimetry program can be a daunting task.
Starting backward from the ideal graduate and
deciding what to measure makes the process easier and
provides data essential for program improvement. By
working backward, assessment becomes an exciting,
informative process. Examining the ideal graduate helps
identify skills, attitudes, behaviors, and values that are
important to measure.
Similar to terminology used in computer technology, the adage of “garbage in, garbage out” also is valid
for assessment. If the objectives and student learning
outcomes (SLOs) do not measure the skills, attitudes,
behaviors, and values of the ideal graduate, no amount
of data or analysis will provide the program with
information for continuous quality improvement. If
the ideal graduate is one who is skilled at producing a
PowerPoint (Microsoft) presentation, then that skill
should be measured. If that skill is not important for an
entry-level radiographer, magnetic resonance technologist, radiation therapist, or medical dosimetrist, then
measuring that skill provides meaningless data and will
never lead to program improvement. This article provides a different lens through which to view assessment
and make the process easier and more useful to the
assessment team and the program.
The Joint Review Committee on Education in
Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) developed standards
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for accredited educational programs with input from the
medical imaging, radiation therapy, and medical dosimetry communities.1-4 The JRCERT Standards require
programs to set goals and measure SLOs in 4 areas:
clinical competence, critical thinking, professionalism,
and communication. When working assessment backward, program faculty should consider these questions:
 What skills, attitudes, and behaviors should our
graduates possess in relation to the 4 goal areas?
 How will our graduates be differentiated from
graduates of other medical imaging, radiation therapy, and medical dosimetry educational programs?
 How will we know whether our educational program has been successful?
Answering these questions provides a more concrete idea of the assessment data needed to ensure the
program reaches its established goals. Each program
is unique, so its assessment plan will be unique as
well. Although the 4 goal areas might be the same, the
objectives and SLOs differ depending on the type of
program, its structure, and degree offered. For example, at the certificate and associate degree levels, the
program might not require students to write research
papers for publication; however, at the baccalaureate
and master’s degree levels this might be appropriate.
One program might place extra emphasis on communication with patients from diverse populations, while
another might focus on adaptability to new technologies. The faculty for each program determine the
RADIOLOGIC TECHNOLOGY, July/August 2015, Volume 86, Number 6
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unique qualities they desire the program’s graduates to
possess. Continuous quality improvement via assessment is the only way to determine whether goals are
being met, and if not, what changes should be made to
improve the program.
Desirable Skills, Attitudes, and Behaviors
Considering the 4 goal areas, there are many desirable
skills, attitudes, and behaviors for the graduate. Box 1
contains possible statements a program might consider
depending on its goals. These are not necessarily SLOs,
but merely statements a program might make regarding
the characteristics graduates could demonstrate in relation to each goal. With further refinement, these statements can become the basis for SLOs.
These statements are absent of any reference to
scores or pass rates on the credentialing examination or
completion of specific classroom or laboratory assignments. Although all graduates are expected to pass the
national credentialing exam, it is a minimum expectation and does not demonstrate a graduate’s ability to
function with entry-level skills in the clinical setting.
The JRCERT Standards require that programs collect
and report credentialing examination pass rates as one
measure to assure program effectiveness. With regard
to specific classroom or laboratory assignments—
unless a program determines, for example, that it is
vital the graduate be skilled at presentations using
PowerPoint software—developing and gathering data
for this attribute provides less than meaningful assessment data for the program.
Differentiation
To create differentiation, the program and the
respective communities of interest should focus on
a unique set of values that is well-integrated into
the curriculum. For example, a program might state
something similar to the following in reference to its
values.
In addition to meeting the learning outcomes, our
students will be identified by their demonstration of
excellence in regard to:
 Competence in addressing cultural diversity.
 Excellence in patient care.
 Technical expertise.
RADIOLOGIC TECHNOLOGY, July/August 2015, Volume 86, Number 6
Box 1
Possible Statements for a Program to Consider
Clinical Competence
Our graduates:
 Are able to competently run a general radiography room.
 Take quality general radiographs in multiple settings.
 Select appropriate scans and protocols.
Critical Thinking
Our graduates:
 Adapt to new procedures, technologies, and situations.
 Identify errors and can provide suggestions for correction.
 Participate actively in quality assurance and safety
procedures.
 Provide appropriate resources to meet patient needs.
Professionalism
Our graduates:
 Are reliable and ethical.
 Participate in continuous learning.
 Are actively involved in professional presentations at the
local, state, and national levels.
 Conduct research to expand knowledge of the profession.
 Have exemplary attitudes and behavior toward patients.
Communication
Our graduates:
 Use appropriate medical terminology.
 Appropriately discuss care strategies for adverse effects with
patients under treatment.
 Gather accurate patient histories.
 Discuss procedures with patients in a manner appropriate
to the patient’s age, gender, ethnicity, and general ability to
understand.
 Professional activities.
Adaptability.
 Community service.
Each value is well-communicated to students because
the topic is reinforced in almost every class and evaluated throughout the program.
Putting It All Together
Once a program is clear on the skills, attitudes,
behaviors, and values associated with the ideal graduate,
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JRCERT Update
Assessment: Working Backward
it is time to put it all together. Further delineation is
needed to hone in on what each statement means in
terms of measurable skills, attitudes, and behaviors.
Although some statements seem clear, everyone associated with the program must know exactly what the
requisite skills, attitudes, behaviors, and values are and
how they will be assessed. Consider the statement from
the critical thinking example in Box 1: Our graduates
adapt to new procedures, technologies, and situations.
The specific behaviors, skills, and attitudes associated
with the statement must be identified to determine how
to use this desired trait in an assessment plan. Skills,
attitudes, and behaviors associated with being adaptable
need to be determined, and specific new procedures,
technologies, or situations of focus for the program
specified. Once these steps are completed, SLOs can be
developed for a particular goal (see Box 2).
Measuring Success
When the program and all of the communities
of interest have agreed on the ideal graduate’s skills,
behaviors, attitudes, and values and appropriate SLOs
have been developed and measured, the final step is to
analyze the assessment results to determine program
success. If benchmarks are continually being met, it
might be time to raise the benchmarks or find another
area to examine and assess for program improvement.
However, if the established benchmarks are not being
met over multiple assessment periods, the program
should reassess benchmarks, measurement tools, and
perhaps curriculum. It is possible the content area covered by the SLOs needs to be enhanced or the benchmarks might have been set too high.
The program can analyze the data for patterns. Data
might show a specific group of students not meeting
the benchmark, or it might show all students struggling
with the SLOs. Trends leading to decreasing results
might be found by studying data over several years.
When examining data in relation to the curriculum, any
changes in teaching methodology or instructors should
be taken into account. Careful analysis of data will
show whether the measurement tools really measure
the SLOs and should help the program identify opportunities for incremental improvement, which is the purpose of assessment.
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Box 2
Sample Student Learning Outcomes
Example Goal 1:
Our students/graduates will use critical-thinking skills.
 SLO 1.1 – students will analyze pretreatment imaging and
make treatment adjustments. A possible measurement tool
is an imaging rubric.
 SLO 1.2 – students will produce treatable plans for areas
that have previously received radiation therapy. A possible
measurement tool is a treatment plan.
 SLO 1.3 – students will adjust positioning to accommodate
the patient’s condition. Possibilities for measurement tools
are clinical evaluations and simulation evaluations.
Example Goal 2:
Our students/graduates will demonstrate professionalism.
 SLO 2.1 – students will demonstrate ethical behaviors.
Possibilities for measurement tools are clinical evaluations
and employer surveys.
 SLO 2.2 – students will be prepared for the employment
interview process. A possible measurement tool is to
produce a professional résumé.
 SLO 2.3 – students will be able to analyze career
opportunities. A possible measurement tool is to develop a
career plan.
Conclusion
Assessment is the most effective means by which
program faculty can make evidence-based decisions for
program improvement. Working assessment backward
involves the program and communities of interest working together to make the process more meaningful.
Asking questions to determine the skills, attitudes, behaviors, and values that are most important to the program
and communities of interest provides valuable insight for
the program and a roadmap for the assessment process.
Once the meaningful traits are identified, determining
what to measure is simple. With measurable SLOs, multiple measurement tools can be identified or developed for
effective measurement of student learning.
Because communities of interest are involved in the
assessment process, there is buy-in from the clinical
sites. When program faculty, clinical instructors, and
clinical staff have the same expectations for student
learning, the evaluations and measurement tools are
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JRCERT Update
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more effective and the data more reliable. The collected
data are truly meaningful, and when analyzed, the
information is a powerful tool for program improvement. No program is perfect, but with incremental
changes programs can continue to improve.
Stephanie Eatmon, EdD, R.T. (R)(T), FASRT, is a
member of the JRCERT Board of Directors and an advisor
for the National University Radiation Therapy Program.
She can be contacted at [email protected]
References
1. Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Standards for an accredited educational program in
radiography. JRCERT Web site. http://www.jrcert.org/sites
/jrcert/uploads/documents/2014_Standards/Standards
_2014-Radiography.doc. Effective January 1, 2014. Accessed
January 16, 2015.
2. Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Standards for an accredited educational program in
magnetic resonance. JRCERT Web site. http://www.jrcert.org
/sites/jrcert/uploads/documents/2014_Standards/Standards
_2014-Magnetic_Resonance.doc. Effective January 1, 2014.
Accessed January 16, 2015.
3. Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Standards for an accredited educational program in
radiation therapy. JRCERT Web site. http://www.jrcert.org
/sites/jrcert/uploads/documents/2014_Standards/Standards
_2014-Radiation_Therapy.doc. Effective January 1, 2014.
Accessed January 16, 2015.
4. Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Standards for an accredited educational program in
medical dosimetry. JRCERT Web site. http://www.jrcert.org
/sites/jrcert/uploads/documents/2014_Standards/Standards
_2014-Medical_Dosimetry.doc. Effective January 1, 2014.
Accessed January 16, 2015.
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