Creating an Assessment Plan

An assessment plan contains the details of how you will work through the steps of the assessment cycle for one or two learning outcomes. As you read through the description below of what is typically included in an assessment plan you might discover that you have already completed some of the work described. If you find this, then be sure you have a record of what you’ve already accomplished and develop your plan accordingly.

There are no set rules for how to construct an assessment plan for your program. This guide is intended to introduce you to the typical questions answered by a plan for assessing learning outcomes, help you develop a plan that answers those questions, share ideas for how to document your plan, and provide a few tips to help you plan effectively. 

Questions answered by an assessment plan

At its most basic level an assessment plan answers these three questions: 

1.  Which student learning outcomes will you focus on? 

2.  What evidence will you use to determine how well students are achieving the selected outcomes? 

3.  How will you use the information to improve your program? 

Developing the plan

The following series of if-then statements can be used as a guide to help you answer the three questions of an assessment plan.

1.  Which student learning outcomes will you focus on?

  • If your program does not have learning outcomes, then plan to develop these as a first step.
  • If your program has learning outcomes, then plan to consider if these reflect your current program or if they need revision.
  • If you are satisfied with your program’s learning outcomes, then plan to select one or two learning outcomes to focus your assessment plan on.

 2. What evidence will you use to determine how well students are achieving the selected outcomes?

  • If you need to determine what evidence is available to you, then plan time to determine the practices within your program that help students to achieve the selected outcomes. The best way to approach this is with a curriculum or outcome map.
  • If you have determined the practices in your program that help students achieve the outcomes, then plan to select the evidence of student learning you will use (e.g., an existing exam, survey, presentation, paper, performance).
  • If you have selected the evidence you will use, then plan when, where, and who will collect this evidence.
  • If you have collected the evidence you will use, then plan to determine what method you will use to know from it if students are accomplishing the learning outcomes (e.g., you could use components of a rubric that address the learning outcome, exam items or exam sections that address the learning outcome).
  • If you have determined how you will know if students are accomplishing the learning outcome, then plan to apply your method (e.g., apply your rubric, score your items).
  • If you have applied your method (i.e., applied your rubric, scored your items), then plan to analyze this data. This does not necessarily mean that you have to compute statistics. It means that the collected data are summarized in a meaningful way—that is the data tells you whether the outcomes are being achieved.
  • If you have analyzed your data, then plan to prepare a user-friendly report of the findings to share with all of the members of your program.

3. How will you use the information to improve your program?

    • If you have prepared a report of your findings, then plan to interpret the findings as a program. Decide together what the findings mean.
    • If all aspects of the learning outcomes were satisfactorily achieved, then plan to reassess the outcomes at a later time to determine if they are still being satisfactorily achieved.
    • If all aspects of the learning outcomes were not satisfactorily achieved, then plan to make changes designed to improve student learning in your program (e.g., to the curriculum, pedagogy, assignments).
    • You will also want to plan to reassess the outcomes at a later time to determine if improvement in student learning occurred.

If you are uncertain about where to begin your assessment plan, or what steps to take next, you might try using the Creating an Assessment Plan Flowchart as a guide. 

Documenting your plan

Documenting your assessment plan will help you stay organized and on-track while working on the assessments, and later help you to remember what you did. It is important that you specify who does what when . If responsibility is clearly defined the tasks are much more likely to be completed.

There is no one right way to make a written record of your plan. To give you some ideas for how to write it down, here is one example plan presented in two different formats:  

 
  narra 
   Go to Narrative Format 

   
  tableicon 
   Go to Tabular Format 


Ideas for effective planning

Creating a plan that your program can manage and sustain is essential. Here are a few ideas for how to achieve this in your planning:

  • Choose to focus on only one or two learning outcomes at a time. Pick the learning outcomes that are most important to you to assess now, and then plan to begin assessment of one or two additional outcomes each year.
  • Be sure to include sufficient time for each step of the assessment plan. For example, designing a rubric and collecting your data can each take a semester or more to complete. Consider also that you may need to pilot test your rubrics, exam items, or surveys before they are ready to be used. 
  • Allow a year to two years to complete all of the assessment steps for your chosen learning outcomes. You want to allow sufficient time for each step, but also complete the cycle in a reasonable amount of time. 
  • Keep in mind that the purpose of assessment is to improve student learning. Staying focused on this goal can help you stay motivated.