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Guiding Principles

This report was developed by the Academic Affairs Assessment Planning Team (May 2005).


  • The most important purpose of assessment is to improve programs systematically by monitoring student learning. We must also comply with accreditation standards, but it is more important to make it useful for the faculty.
  • We are committed to making assessment meaningful to the faculty first of all. We want assessment to be meaningful at the college and university levels, too, but it’s more important that it be useful at the department level.
  • We are also committed to making assessment as efficient as possible. Certainly, we don’t want the costs of assessment to swamp its value. That means that assessment should not detract from teaching or research or other core responsibilities. It also means that the University should look for efficiency in processes and staffing for assessment.
  • Assessment should be faculty driven. Only a program’s faculty should decide what learning outcomes should be for that program, and they are in the best position to determine whether students have achieved those outcomes.
  • Assessment is a collaborative activity among faculty, staff, and students. The most important role of faculty should be to determine outcomes, choose assessment strategies, evaluate results, and recommend actions. Wherever possible, staff should be used to carry out assessment strategies, e.g., constructing tools, collecting data, and preparing analyses for faculty consideration. If students are involved in the assessment process, they need to see that their contributions to assessment are useful and valued.
  • Measurable or observable outcomes must be established for every program, and achievement of those outcomes must be assessed regularly and continuously.
  • For academic programs, assessment must include student learning outcomes. Inputs (curriculum, faculty qualifications, GRE scores, etc.), process measures (graduation rates, time to degree, etc.), and outputs (number of degrees awarded, etc.) provide valuable information, but are different from learning outcomes.
  • We understand that assessment of learning is inexact and difficult. That means we sometimes have to settle for proxy measures, quasi-experimental designs, and qualitative designs. The results might be a little fuzzy, but as long as we don’t over-interpret them, and as long as the results are informative to the faculty, assessment can be meaningful. It also means that each department’s assessment process will evolve and develop based on what the faculty learn from prior assessments.
  • We want assessment to contribute substantially to evidence-based decision making. At the department level, assessment results can inform decisions about curriculum, pedagogy, support, and advising. At the college and university levels, summarized results can inform policy decisions. While the results should be considered, there should be no direct or formulaic translation of assessment results into resource allocations or personnel decisions. That is, there should be no automatic reward for good results or penalty for poor results.
  • Assessment plans, processes, and use of results should be written, shared, and periodically evaluated.
  • Outcomes assessment should be recognized and rewarded.