Measuring things is a part of everyday life. We do health screenings to determine how healthy we are, with the results being used by a physician to recommend lifestyle changes or to alter prescriptions. We evaluate how well players handle themselves in a game and then make adjustments at the next practice. Teachers use homework assignments, projects and exams to evaluate whether students are learning the course material. We monitor gas mileage with our vehicles for indications of inefficiency, which will result in a visit to the mechanic to improve vehicle performance. This process – planning, evaluating, adjusting – is called assessment.
Assessment is not about making reports, sending reports, or accumulating reports, but rather the evaluation of our effectiveness according to our purpose and goals. Some questions to be asked: Are students really learning what we say they should? Are the degree programs really preparing students for their fields? Are the service units of the university really providing appropriate support for the students and the rest of the university community?
Additional questions naturally follow: How do we know? What do we use to measure effectiveness? What do the results mean? What changes need to be made to reflect those results and meanings?
The reality is that ALL OF US ALREADY DO ASSESSMENT ALL THE TIME, particularly on a personal level. For the university, however, we must go beyond ourselves and assess at the course level, program level (degrees) and unit level (services). This is not the domain of only administrators; all of us must be involved in assessment at these levels, since we are all partners in providing a quality education for our students.
Each academic and service unit determines its own assessment details, which varies greatly across campus. The questions, concerns, goals, measurement tools and evaluations need to be useful, relevant and meaningful to the unit. Assessment is not about creating paperwork or compliance to an administrative directive – it is about making improvements in what we do.
So, here are the three P’s of assessment: PRACTICAL, PARTICULAR and PURPOSEFUL. Remember these words when assessing your courses, programs and services!
You are not alone -- the Testing and Outcomes Assessment Office provides helpful support and guidance, and the University Assessment Committee exists to lead and support university-wide efforts. We are here to help, to consult and to encourage you in improving and refining your assessment process. Please contact me or the Testing Office if you have questions or concerns.
Dr. Scott Carrell, on behalf of the University Assessment Committee
Harding University is seeking continued accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
In an attempt to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of assessment reporting, the university implemented a custom-designed software package to the university system. The user-friendly Global Assessment Tracking software, named GATE, allows assessment managers and coordinators to easily enter assessment plans and evaluations as well as print several types of reports. College deans and other administrators can access the plans and summaries of their respective areas of responsibility. Full implementation occurred during the 2011-2012 academic year, with several previous years being added in preparation for the upcoming accreditation review.
Harding’s Quality Initiative Project (2011-2013), which is the first part of the reaffirmation process scheduled for 2015, was based upon the Lumina Degree Qualifications Profile. The 28-page "Degree Quality Profile Report for the Lumina Foundation" is available upon request.
Deadline for submitting Assessment plans in GATE for the 2014-15 school year is September 15, 2014. An Exemption Form must be completed and turned in to the Testing & Outcomes Office and approved by the Provost Office if this deadline cannot be met.
GATE location: Pipeline Home tab, Employee Services under My Info box, GATE is the last link listed
AES Units: Administrative and educational support units.
Academic Units: Units that offer degrees.
“Closing the Loop”: a critical component of the assessment cycle by which the results are connected to strategic planning. Also known as “using the results to improve.”
ESIP’s: Expanded statement of institutional purposes derived from the mission statement.
HLC-HCA: The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Institutional Effectiveness: the extent to which the University achieves its mission and goals.
Outcomes Assessment: the systematic process by which faculty and staff identify the appropriate outcomes for specific programs, determine the extent to which those outcomes are achieved, and use the results to make changes that will improve learning and services. Outcomes assessment supports informed decision-making, self-improvement, and accountability.
Unit Assessment Plan: the three components are:
(1) Intended Outcomes: seeks to answer the question, “What are we trying to do?”
a. Academic Units: The knowledge, skills, and dispositions that students will demonstrate upon completion of a degree program.
b. AES Units: What the unit intends to accomplish.
(2) Means of Assessment: how will the outcome be measured? Seeks to answer the question, “How well are we doing?”
(3) Criteria for Success: expresses in specific, measurable terms what is the acceptable performance of a specific program or unit.
Unit Assessment Report: an annual report of the actual results obtained, the identified areas for improvement, and the specific changes that will be made for continuous improvement.