How we improve

Continuous improvement is one of WatPD’s foundational principles. We evaluate our courses and the support we offer on a regular basis so students have access to relevant, engaging material and help when they need it.

Delivering that kind of quality and breadth is a significant challenge when thousands of students across dozens of co-op programs enroll in PD courses every term. Our approach to program evaluation and improvement includes both term-by-term refinements — small tweaks made to courses every four months — and routine, comprehensive redevelopment projects. These refinements and redevelopments are informed by student feedback, internal reviews, and consultations with the professors and professionals who bring PD courses to life.

What do we collect?

WatPD’s program evaluation plan is based on Donald L. Kirkpatrick’s four-level training model. We use end-of-course surveys to gauge student reactions to each course on a termly basis, and the surveys have room for both semi-quantitative and qualitative responses.

WatPD evaluates student learning in each course by looking at course averages, pass rates, and student self-assessments of changes in their knowledge and behaviour. Over 90% of students earn their credits in PD courses, and pre- and post-tests confirm that students are experiencing changes in their knowledge between the beginning and end of each course.

Finally, we collect data outside of the courses to further guide course changes and redevelopment. Employers review the courses to make sure the material within is relevant to their workplaces, and WatPD’s co-op students test the courses when they’re being edited, developed, and redeveloped.

How do we use it?

Every change made to WatPD’s courses is informed by best practices in higher education and/or the data we collect from students, instructors, employers, and other members of the Waterloo community. The courses are kept fresh on a termly basis with minor edits and additions, all of which are made in response to specific pieces of feedback from participants in the courses.

For example, let’s assume that students are having trouble completing a given assessment. The submission rate and grades are both lower than average for the rest of the course. WatPD staff might look at changing the weighting of the assessment, its placement in the course, or the instructions being given; they might also edit the corresponding unit and/or the structure of the assessment itself to help students understand the material.

WatPD’s courses are also routinely redeveloped from the ground up, a process that gives us a chance to address conceptual issues and make larger scale changes. Experts from the Centre for Extended Learning work with course authors, WatPD staff, and other university stakeholders to evaluate and edit the courses over the course of a full year.

Some courses emerge from redevelopment with a refreshed set of examples, lightly edited content, and new assessment weighting; others are almost entirely rebuilt. The process ensures that all of our courses remain engaging, useful, and responsive to student concerns.

If you’re interested in learning more about our program evaluation plan or feedback collection, please contact Erin Smith, WatPD’s Associate Director, Program Improvement, at