What is Assessment?

Assessment is the systematic, continuous process of gathering, reviewing, and using data on student learning and other outcomes for the purpose of making improvements. Student learning outcomes assessment is an ongoing four‐step process of “establishing clear, measurable, expected outcomes of student learning; ensuring that students have sufficient opportunities to achieve those outcomes; systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well student learning matches our expectations; and, using the resulting information to understand and improve student learning” (Suskie, 2009, p. 4).

What is Assessment NOT?

Student learning outcomes assessment is not simply the process of assigning grades to students. Rather, it is defining, as a program, the central areas of student learning, looking at each of these areas independently to see if students are achieving them, and then examining ways to adjust teaching/learning practices to increase student achievement. Grades, whether course or exam, often reflect multiple student learning outcomes and therefore do not accurately reflect learning in one area.

Student learning outcomes assessment is also not an evaluation of faculty. Assessment is designed to look at learning through the student experience within a program. Although the measurement of a specific learning outcome might take place in one course, student learning typically takes place over the course of a curriculum and any deficiencies in student achievement should be considered programmatic in nature, not course‐based.

Overall, the assessment process at an institution is not just an exercise for accreditation purposes. For assessment to be effective, it must be ongoing and systematic. It is not just the implementation of improvements in programs or units, but following up on these actions to determine if additional steps are needed.