Assessment Guidelines for Departments

The following guidelines should help academic departments and their Chairs to implement Outcomes Assessment policy in compliance with NEASC standards. Department Chairs lead their faculty in the five-stage assessment cycle. Departments which offer more than one degree program should use the cycle to assess learning outcomes in each program. For each program it is essential that all five of the following areas be addressed:

  1. What are the goals and objectives of the program?
    1. Review previously stated goals and objectives. If there has been no recent review, consider goals published in the 1992 Biennial Assessment Report and Expected Outcomes listed in the Undergraduate Catalog. Which are still valid? Make any necessary changes.
    2. Select no more than 3-5 major goals (broad learning outcomes) and related objectives (specific knowledge and skills).
    3. Prioritize. It is acceptable to concentrate on one goal per year and to add others as the assessment cycle resumes.
  2. What direct evidence do you have of student learning outcomes?
    1. Determine which two or three kinds of evidence are most appropriate for this program (See EVIDENCE OF STUDENT LEARNING, below)
    2. Select methods, assign responsibilities to program faculty, establish a time frame.
    3. Report the evidence you have obtained.
  3. As you interpret the evidence, what does it show?
    1. Ensure that representative program faculty commit to the work of interpretation.
    2. Establish guidelines and a time frame.
    3. What does the evidence show as to strengths and weaknesses in meeting program goals?
  4. What changes, based on assessment, are you making to strengthen the program?
    1. Describe any assessment-based changes of past years and their present status.
    2. Describe at least one change, approved by program faculty, based on this year’s evidence.
    3. If the new change requires governance approval, where does it stand in that process?
    4. When this change is in place, how will it be assessed for improvement of learning outcomes?
  5. Have you closed the assessment loop?
    “Closing the loop” means completing the assessment cycle, from goals through program change, then resuming the cycle for continuous improvement year by year. Assessment truly benefits student learning only when faculty are willing to make changes and then change again if there is evidence of need.


Some Methods that Provide Direct Evidence of Student Learning

  • Locally developed tests
  • Standardized tests
  • Pre- and post-tests
  • Essay tests blind scored across units
  • Internal juried review of student projects
  • External juried review of student projects
  • Externally reviewed internships
  • Performance on national licensure examinations
  • Student work samples
  • Collections of student work (e.g., Portfolios)
  • Course-embedded assessment
  • Observations of student behavior

Some Methods that Provide Indirect Evidence of Student Learning

  • Alumni, employer, student surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Exit interviews with graduates
  • Graduate follow-up studies
  • Percentage of students who go on to graduate school
  • Retention and transfer studies
  • Job placement statistics

Methods that do NOT Provide Evidence of Student Learning

  • Faculty publications (unless students are involved)
  • Courses selected or elected by students
  • Faculty/student ratios
  • Percentage of students who study abroad
  • Enrollment trends
  • Percentage of students who graduate within five to six years
  • Diversity of the student body
  • Size of endowment
  • Number of books in the library

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