FAQs About Assessment

 

The Office of Assessment at Loyola Marymount University provides leadership and support in the University’s efforts to create a culture of evidence, learning centeredness, and continuous improvement. Our office offers a variety of resources to support programs in their efforts to understand and improve student learning. Below you will find a list of frequently asked questions about assessment and some of the resources available at LMU. If you have additional questions, please contact Laura Massa, Director of Assessment at lmassa1@lmu.edu.

Why assess student learning outcomes?

What is program assessment?

What are the steps in the assessment cycle?

What things should we consider when developing an assessment plan?

What is the relationship between missions, goals, and learning outcomes?

How can we easily identify where in the curriculum our learning outcomes are being addressed?

How do you assess higher order skills or outcomes that are not easily measured by tests?

Is funding available to support our program’s assessment work?

Where can we get help?

Should we assess all of our program outcomes yearly?

What are some things we can do to make assessment more manageable for our program?

 

Why assess student learning outcomes?

We assess student learning outcomes to ensure that we offer our students the best possible education. Learning outcomes identify the knowledge, skills and values that students are expected to achieve. Assessment helps us to understand how well students are achieving those outcomes and the experiences that contributed to their achievement. An essential part of assessment is then using this information to make informed decisions about program strengths and areas for improvement. We use the information we gather to make better decisions about pedagogy, the design of programs, and how to allocate resources to enhance a student’s LMU experience.

 

What is program assessment?

Program level assessment is aimed at understanding and improving student learning within a program. It is the systematic, ongoing process of gathering and interpreting evidence of student learning to determine if a program is meeting its learning goals and then using that information to improve the program. It moves beyond assessment of the individual student or course by aggregating across the entire program, providing a holistic picture of what graduates of the program learn as a result of the major curriculum.

Cycle for FAQs

What are the steps in the assessment cycle?

Step 1: Articulate the mission and goals
Step 2: Identify specific outcomes
Step 3: Determine practices used to achieve outcomes
Step 4: Gather evidence
Step 5: Review and interpret the results
Step 6: Recommend actions
Carrying out the recommended actions closes the assessment loop.
Plan to reassess the outcomes at a later time.
 
 

What things should we consider when developing an assessment plan?

The typical questions answered by a plan for assessing learning outcomes include:

•    Which student learning outcomes will you focus on?
•    What evidence will you use to determine how well students are achieving the selected outcomes?
•    How will you use the information to improve your program?
There are no set rules for how to construct your plan. Example plans and templates can be found on our website.

 

What is the relationship between missions, goals, and learning outcomes?

A mission statement should explain why an organization exists and what it hopes to achieve in the future. It articulates the organization’s essential nature, its values and its work. Program learning goals are broad statements about knowledge, skills, attitudes and values expected in graduates of the program. Goals are written to align with the holistic vision of the mission. Typically, multiple goals are drawn from the mission statement. Program learning outcomes are clear, concise statements that describe how students can demonstrate their mastery of program goals. Learning outcomes should be thoughtfully developed in consideration of the mission and the goals of the program. There are usually multiple learning outcomes for each goal. Example missions, goals, and learning outcomes can be found on our website.

 

How can we easily identify where in the curriculum our learning outcomes are being addressed?

Curriculum and outcome maps are two ways to help you determine where in the curriculum your learning outcomes are being addressed. A curriculum map is a visual overview of where in your program you are fostering the desired knowledge, skills, and values. An outcome map pinpoints the significant pedagogies, course content and assignments that further one learning outcome. Examples and templates for both types of maps are available on our website.

 

How do you assess higher order skills or outcomes that are not easily measured by tests?

A rubric is an especially good tool for evaluating these skills. It is a guide for evaluating student work along certain dimensions. Within the context of program assessment the dimensions can be specific skills or aspects of a learning outcome. For each dimension there are concrete descriptors for different levels of performance. Essentially a rubric takes professional judgments about qualities of student work and aligns them with a rating scale. Rubrics can be developed for virtually any student work product, performance or behavior (e.g., written work, presentations, participation in discussions, etc.). Examples of rubrics for a variety of outcomes are available on our website.

 

Is funding available to support our program’s assessment work?

The Internal Summer Assessment Grant program began in 2009, and provides funding for assessment work that otherwise could not be completed during the academic year. The call for proposals can be found here. External funding opportunities may also be available for assessment work in your school or department. Many grant programs promote and support assessment of student learning for the purpose of improvement. Visit our website for a list of just some of the many funding opportunities available at this time. In addition, LMU's Rains Research Assistant Program offers assistance to faculty in their research projects, including assessment projects. For information on the Rains program, visit: http://academics.lmu.edu/ofd/resources/rainsresearchassistantprogram/.  An overview of the program and application forms can be found under the “Scholarship/Creative Work Resources” heading.

 

Where can we get help?

The Office of Assessment can provide your program with resources, advice, and support. In addition to the resources available online, we host a number of workshops and other training opportunities toward the goal of enhancing institutional capacity to engage in assessment. Please visit our workshops and events page for a list of upcoming engagements. If you are interested in a one-on-one consultation or a specialized workshop for your program or department, please contact Laura Massa, Director of Assessment, at ext. 86130 or lmassa1@lmu.edu

 

Should we assess all of our program outcomes yearly?

Assessment is a systematic, ongoing process that should be both manageable and sustainable. One way to achieve this is 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. You should also allow a year to two years to complete all of the steps in the assessment cycle 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. 

 

What are some things we can do to make assessment more manageable for our program?

Creating an assessment plan that your program can manage and sustain is essential. Here are 10 strategies that can help you achieve this: 

1.      Take advantage of the numerous resources on our website. Templates and examples of assessment  plans, rubrics, curriculum maps, outcome maps, and more are posted for your use.
2.      Start small and keep it simple. Focus on one or two outcomes at a time. Try simpler methods before using complicated ones. Test procedures on a small scale before full implementation.
3.      Don’t reinvent the wheel. Find out what other programs have done and are doing. Use the examples on our website.
4.    Seek consulting support from the assessment staff and attend workshops.
5.      Seek out funding for assessment work. See the funding FAQ above for more information.
6.      Assign responsibility for each task. Distribute the work so it is manageable for each person.
7.    Choose assessment methods that are both efficient and effective.
8.      Make use of existing practices or data. Take advantage of existing student tests, papers, presentations and more. A map can help you determine what students produce to address specific learning outcomes.
9.      Have a central repository for assessment information and keep records of all steps in your assessment cycle.
10.      Use the technology that is available to you, such as online survey programs and spreadsheets or data analysis programs to organize and analyze your results.