Assessment is a cyclical process of events that ensures the performance, integrity, and quality of educational institutions, their programs, and courses. This process affirms confidence in those institutions to the educational community and the general public. Assessment happens at many levels of an institution such as large self-studies for accreditation purposes, program review, academic unit and degree program viability, and small internal course reviews.
Although the specific procedures of assessment differ, the overall cycle remains the same. Institutional assessment at all levels has these phases:
- Planning: To engage all stakeholders and define the expected outcomes
- Measuring: Data is collected and organized
- Improving: Data is analyzed to compare the actual outcome to the expected outcome to find areas for improvement
While individual goals for assessment vary by project and initiative, the overall goals of educational assessment are shared:
- Cultivating excellence by developing criteria and guidelines for measuring educational quality and institutional effectiveness.
- Promoting continuous improvement through periodic self-study and evaluation.
- Certifying to the educational community, the general public, and other organizations that an institution has clearly defined and appropriate educational objectives.
- Demonstrating that the conditions exist under which those objectives can reasonably be achieved.
- Ensuring that the institution is substantially accomplishing their objectives, and that the institution is organized, staffed, and supported, with clear expectations that it will continue to be.
The overarching theme of the challenges facing many institutions is: the need for an organized and collective process for evaluation and assessment. Outcomes assessment provides the tools that can leverage technology to standardize processes, preserve data, and link goals throughout your institution.
These tools make it easier to engage busy faculty and administrators by shortening the time they have to spend on committees. These tools simplify the assessment processes for direct measures of student learning. At the same time, the unique environments of individual departments and respect for academic autonomy and freedom are preserved.
Institutional Hierarchy as it relates to assessment
The Institutional Hierarchy for Community Engagement, available to institutions with access to community engagement, is a hierarchy manager. The user interface is designed to allow you to create a multi-level framework within Blackboard Learn that mirrors your institution's own colleges, schools, departments, non-academic units, and other special populations. While originally designed as a means to delegate administration tasks to other users as appropriate, the Institutional Hierarchy for Community Engagement may also be designed for the purposes of assessment and the collection of student artifacts.
When you design the hierarchy, consider the assessment processes. Some assessment processes mimic the traditional institution > college/school > department structure. Other processes move beyond traditional departments and focus on non-academic and student cohorts such as First-Year Experience Programs, General Education Programs, and Course Cohorts. Associating courses to these units, or nodes, in the institutional hierarchy, allows users to collect evidence from sets of courses associated to this node rather than specifying specific courses or collecting from the entire system. Then, evidence collections can be specific to the selected unit.
Thinking beyond the traditional structure of an institution to design an institutional hierarchy for assessment purposes allows an institution to capture course artifacts specific to these unique assessment needs.
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Collect evidence using dates vs. terms
When establishing definition collection options for the evidence collection process, users have the ability to limit a search by a specific time period: either dates or terms. Limiting a search to a date range collects artifacts based on the date of student submission into active courses during that date range. Limiting a search to a date range by academic term collects artifacts based on the date of student submission into active courses during that specified term or terms.
Goals in the assessment process
Developing goals for assessing student learning is an essential function of the outcomes process. Goals serve as the "key" when identifying students' artifacts for evidence collection and assessment. To this point, the development and organization of goals is critical to the process.
More on goals in outcomes assessment
- Walvoord, B. E., & Banta, T. W. (2010). Assessment Clear and Simple: A Practical Guide for Institutions, Departments, and General Education (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
- Association of American Colleges and Universities, Assessment Resources