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Closing the loop

In assessment cycles, closing the loop happens at the 11th hour.

At least that’s the case in many diagrams – you’ll find the improvement process represented at the 11 o’clock position on most assessment cycle graphics:

Assessment cycle circular diagram with arrows between each point: using data for improvement, setting goals and objectives, mapping learning opportunities, assessing goals and objectives, analysing and discussing results, returning to using data for improvement
Source: adapted from the Office of Assessment and Planning at Lehman College (CUNY).

When it’s about data, ‘closing the loop’ means:

  • Using data for improvement
  • Data-driven decision making
  • Data - analysis - action
  • Using the results

When it’s effective, it also means:

  • Closing the loop on at least one finding
  • Sharing the data (even if dreadful) with internal and external stakeholders
  • Keeping everyone apprised of actions
  • Following through in the next cycle

Closing the loop 'machine' diagram courtesy of Zayed University - data is ingested at the top of the 'funnel', which is then analysed by faculty before the process outputs some recommendations which feed all the way back into the top of the funnel
Source: adapted from learning assessment at Zayed University

The phrase is used across disciplines, and not always about assessment. Consider processes such as recycling, agricultural sustainability, manufacturing, software development, systems feedback loops and tying knots and how you’ve seen them depicted.

What happens where you work?

When we say that ‘closing the loop’ happens at the 11th hour, do you think there’s a literal meaning, as well as a figurative one?

Does the ‘closing’ typically happen close to an impending deadline at your workplace? Why do you think that is? Share your views in the comments below.

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This article is from the free online course:

Using Data to Improve Student Outcomes

American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

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