Assessment 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. This overview of the assessment cycle is intended to introduce the basic steps for how to use assessment to improve your program.
Step 1: Articulate the Mission and Goals
- Program assessment plans begin with a clear articulation of the mission and goals of the program.
- Information on the concepts of mission, goals, and their relationship to learning outcomes (Step 2) can be found in the assessment resources on this site.
Step 2: Identify Specific Outcomes
- For each learning goal there are usually multiple learning outcomes, which are much more specific statements that describe how students can demonstrate their mastery of program goals.
- To keep assessment work manageable pick one or two learning outcomes to focus on now, planning to assess another one or two each year.
Step 3: Determining Practices Used to Achieve Outcomes
- Once learning outcomes are agreed upon in the program, the next step is to determine what is already happening in the curriculum to help students achieve these outcomes.
- The best way to approach this is with a curriculum map.
Step 4: Gathering Evidence
- Collection of evidence should be guided by the outcomes you’ve selected to focus on and by where you’ve determined those outcomes are addressed in your program.
- There are many types of measurement tools that can provide evidence of student learning that occurs within your program. For an overview of types of measures click here.
Step 5: Review & Interpret Results
- Once you’ve gathered your evidence, you need to organize it in a way that is meaningful to your program.
- Using clear decision criteria for determining success or “failure,” take time to discuss results and figure out what they mean.
Step 6: Recommend Actions
- Once the program has decided what the results mean, you need to determine whether to make changes to your curriculum, pedagogy, assignments, and/or assessments.
And the cycle continues…
- You make the changes, adjust your curriculum map if needed, and then you measure again to see if the changes were effective, and the cycle continues…
- It is essential to document what you did. Your record will help you remember what led to the changes you see in student learning outcomes.
As you work through your assessment cycle, remember that the purpose of assessment is to improve. In addition, if you have questions or need advice, please contact the office of assessment staff.