What is assessment
What is assessment and why assess?
Adapted from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst “Program-Based Review & Assessment Tools & Techniques for Program Improvement,” (April 2017); and Marymount University Assessment Handbook (2015)
This website will help you think about assessment in terms of how it can benefit you, your fellow faculty members, and the students within your academic unit.
What is assessment?
At NAU assessment is about improvement. The goal of program assessment is to help you focus on improving student learning in your classes and in your academic programs.
Program-Level learning outcomes assessment
There are many types of assessment. At NAU, we focus our attention on the achievement of “program-level learning outcomes assessment.” Program-level learning outcomes assessment is the systematic examination of student achievement of learning outcomes within a degree program. It is the process by which faculty assess student mastery of program-level outcomes. As with all learning outcomes assessment, the primary goal is the continued improvement of academic quality of the course, of the academic program, and of the institution.
When developing and implementing program learning outcomes assessment strategies, academic units should focus on four crucial questions:
- What knowledge, skills, attitudes, etc. will successful students have acquired upon graduation (or program completion)?
- How well do students perform relative to these learning outcomes?
- How can programs demonstrate and celebrate the learning strengths of students?
- How can programs improve to provide a stronger academic experience to students?
Why assess?… To improve student learning
Adapted from Marymount University Assessment Handbook (2015) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Using Assessment for Academic Program Improvement, (April 2000).
Faculty members assess all the time in their classes and in their programs. Professors are constantly considering what worked well and what didn’t, and using those observations and impressions to make changes in their curriculum. What “formal assessment” (called “systematic assessment” at NAU) does is make those informal activities more systematic and more public. Assessment can facilitate improvement through a variety of venues. When faculty members are directly involved in the development, implementation, and analysis of assessment activities, a number of specific benefits can result:
Benefits of learning outcomes assessment
Learning outcomes assessment:
- Benefits students by ensuring they master the material of their degree program;
- Benefits students by ensuring academic and professional programs are responsive to both their and society’s needs.
- Benefits faculty by providing the tools necessary to lead curricular renewal and development.
- Benefits NAU by giving the university evidence of student learning and achievement. This validates to our regional accreditors, parents, students, ABOR, the state of Arizona, and other external audiences
Learning outcomes assessment and accreditation
Since the 1990s, issues of accountability in higher education have been increasingly common concerns of federal, regional, and state regulators. Often the standards of learning are discussed during hearings on the reaffirmation of the Higher Education Act, but to date higher education has been able to argue convincingly that self-regulation is the most effective method for ensuring academic quality and accountability. To this goal, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), NAU’s regional accrediting body, has greatly increased its emphasis on learning outcomes assessment.
While the HLC Criterion for Accreditation clearly emphasize the importance of assessment and use of findings for continual improvement, the criterion are written with intentional breadth to allow individual member institutions flexibility in developing assessment approaches tailored to their faculty and students. At NAU, the Faculty Senate’s curriculum and assessment committees jointly created and implemented the Degree Program Expectations. The Degree Program Expectations are NAU’s approach to ensuring all degree programs develop and maintain high quality curriculum design and meaningful assessment practices. The Faculty Senate’s Curriculum & Assessment Coordinating Committee is charged with ensuring all academic units achieve and maintain the Degree Program Expectations, to ensure we are on track with HLC Accreditation Requirements.
Adapted from Marymount University Assessment Handbook (2015)