Assessment is the systematic process of collecting, evaluating, and using information to determine how well we are meeting our educational goals. Assessment informs meaningful dialogue and decision-making about how the university can improve its programs and services to support student success. Assessment can help faculty improve their own teaching practice and make informed and collaborative decisions about the curriculum. Assessment can also help us understand the effectiveness of the co-curriculum in supporting educational outcomes.

What we learn from good assessment can be used to inform meaningful dialogue about how we can improve our practices to support student success and institutional effectiveness. Assessment results should be used for multiple purposes:

  • To inform classroom instruction
  • To inform program decisions (degree program, general education program, etc.)
  • For external accountability (Higher Learning Commission and specialized accrediting agencies such as ABET and AASCB)

Primary questions for assessment

  • Are students learning what we want them to learn?
  • Does our curriculum make sense? What are we missing? What could we do better?
  • How well are we preparing our students for their futures?
  • What evidence is there that the institution is fulfilling its educational mission?
  • Are we making a difference?

Levels of assessment

Level 1: Assessing individual student learning within courses
Key Question: How well is the student achieving the learning outcomes for the course?

Level 2: Assessing individual student learning across courses (in a program, for example)
Key Questions: How well has the student achieved the major program outcomes? How well is the student prepared to move forward in their curriculum?

Level 3: Assessing courses
Key Questions: Are the assignments and experiences helping students achieve the expected level of knowledge or skills? How well is the course fulfilling its purpose in the larger curriculum?

Level 4: Assessing programs (used for internal and external accountability)
Key Questions: Do the program’s courses contribute to its outcomes as planned? Does the program advance institution-wide goals?

Level 5: Assessing the institution (used for external accountability)
Key Questions: How well are we preparing our students for their futures? What evidence is there that the institution is fulfilling its educational mission?

For further reading, explore the Association of American Colleges and Universities' Levels of Assessment publication

What do people mean when they talk about “a culture of assessment”?

Assessment practice and use of results are valued by the institution, and are integrated into planning and decision-making at multiple levels. Faculty, staff, and administrators believe that assessment is fundamental to improving the institution.

  • Integrated into decisions about faculty and instruction
  • Integrated into curriculum and academic program management
  • Integrated into planning and budget
  • Integrated into co-curricular efforts