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
Questions or comments relating to the University Assessment Committee should be directed to:
Dr. Forrest Smith, Chair