The Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes at PTS

The faculty at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary is committed to excellence in our teaching and is always striving to better serve our students. But how do we know what we need to do better? That is where the work of assessment comes in. 

The assessment of student learning outcomes at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary is the practical expression of two things:

  • our curiosity about what is happening to our students as a result of our teaching
  • the desire to keep the educational promises we make to students when they enroll at PTS.

Assessment is the systematic way the faculty investigates how we are doing as a team of teachers by looking closely at how our students are doing as a group in relation to the learning outcomes we have for each of our academic programs. We assess some learning outcomes from each program each year, examining a random sample of papers, examinations, projects, theses, sermons, field education reports, and other sorts of assignments, evaluating what we find there in a systematic way.

Once we have come to some conclusions about how students are doing in relation to a particular program learning outcome, we make changes that we think will improve student performance in the future. 

Highlights of changes that resulted from 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 assessment activities include:  

  • In direct response to the results of the assessment of the Th.M. program learning outcomes, a faculty member was appointed to serve as Th.M. director, a Th.M. handbook was created, which clearly documents guidelines for students and expectations for faculty, and in the fall of 2016-2017, a new required research methods seminar was launched for Th.M. students.
  • In direct response to the results of the assessment of student learning in the M.Div. program, additional modules or “boot camp sessions” on relevant pastoral care, leadership, and worship topics have been added into the regular MS02 (Theological Reflection on Ministry) rotation.
  • In direct response to the results of the assessment of student learning in the MA, Th.M., and D.Min. programs, plans for a “Center for Writing and Learning Support” are underway, designed to provide ongoing support and accessible resources for students in all programs in order to strengthen research, study, and writing skills. The writing center proposal was incorporated into the most recent version of the Seminary’s strategic plan, and the PTS Board of Directors approved initial funding for the 2016-2017 fiscal year to make it possible to launch the center in the fall of 2017.

These are just a few of the many proposals and changes that resulted from our assessment work over the past two academic years, and there will be many more to come as we continue to be curious about how our students are doing and working to keep the educational promises we make in each of our programs. Questions about the assessment of student learning outcomes at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary? Contact the current faculty director of assessment at lfuller@pts.edu.

PCUSA Ordination Examination

Students who seek positions in the PCUSA are required to complete and pass ordination exams. The results of these exams provide a measure of overall program effectiveness. Presented below are charts which give the exam results for both PTS and overall national scores. The first chart shows the results over a six-year period. These results are based on weighted averages determined by the sample size of the number of PTS students who take the exam in either January or August of any calendar year. The following charts show results for the four components of the exam over a six-year time frame and give a sense of trends both in PTS and nationally.