All academic programs (including certificates) are expected to have an articulated assessment plan to assess student learning outcomes.
Assessment plans include:
- Department/program mission statement
- Student learning outcomes and their respective assessment methods
- Map of outcomes, courses/activities, and assessment timeline
- Targets for success for each outcome
Assessment Plans are submitted in the online repository, Planning & Self-Study.
Annual Assessment Submissions
Annual Assessment Reports for academic programs are due by October 1st each year and contain:
- Listing of outcomes that were assessed during the previous year
- Targets for success for the identified outcomes
- Data and findings related to each assessed outcome
- Action plans if targets are not met
- Activities that support taking action towards continuous program improvement
- Supporting documentation of assessment
Separate assessment report submissions are due for each degree granting program for both undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, and certificates.
Annual Assessment Reports are also submitted in the online repository, Planning & Self-Study.
General Assessment Expectations
All degree programs, certificates and non-academic/non-instructional departments are expected to have an Assessment Plan of student learning.
If there are similar programs within a department, the assessment plans and learning outcomes should vary slightly to reflect the differences. There can be overlap between assessment plans, especially within the same department.
Ongoing data collection is an expectation for program and departmental assessment.
Each outcome does not need to be assessed every year. A good practice would be to evaluate each outcome every 3 years on a rotating basis. This schedule should be described in the departmental assessment plan.
Sharing Results and Identify Actions
What is learned from student assessment isn't helpful if it only sits in a binder on a shelf. The results need to be shared and discussed, and develop a plan of action for the immediate future.
Often times documenting assessment activities falls on department leadership, but in reality assessment is everyone's responsibility. Every program or department should have someone compiling the assessment activities completed each year. How this looks will vary, and may be dependent on external accreditation criteria (if applicable).
In any case, someone should file an assessment report annually for every program. That report includes:
- Reviewing your posted assessment plan
- Indicating assessment methods used during the last year
- Providing a sample of assessment results
- Conclusions determined from those results
- Describing any loop-closing activities that occurred during the past year, either in response to your new assessment findings or as a result of previous assessment work.
Assessment Review Process
Each year, the University Assessment Committee reviews a sampling of academic and co-curricular programs at UND. This process ensures that each program is reviewed at least once every five years by a team of peers.
For more information, see the University Assessment Committee website.
Common Assessment Challenges
Terminology - Goals vs. Outcomes vs Objectives
Often times, a disagreement about the basic assessment terminology is enough to derail the assessment process.
Some programs have a external accreditor that mandates language for the intended learning outcomes. If your accreditor uses a specific set of words for descriptions of assessment expectations, develop a plan that uses your accreditor's terminology. It doesn't make sense to write using one set of terminology for your program accreditors and another set of terminology for UND assessment responsibilities.
If you do not have a program accreditor or if your accreditor does not prescribe terminology, then use language which makes sense to faculty in the field.
In general, the UND assessment team will use the following:
- Goals - The end results of an activity, a program, or a service written in broad terms.
- Outcomes - individual components/pieces to meet the goal; specific and measurable.
- Learning Outcomes - what students know or are able to do at the end of an experience (the main focus of the Assessment Plan and Report)
- Program Outcomes - What the program is expected to provide
- Objectives - Specific accomplishments attainted to meet a goal - also called operational outcomes
or administrative outcomes
- Often times outcomes and objectives are used interchangeably.
For more information on how to write goals and outcomes, see the Assessment Resources website.
Not Using Multiple Methods
Failing to use Both Direct and Indirect Assessments
Direct assessments are those which involve looking at student work that actually demonstrates the learning identified by your goal or outcome. Each student's work is then rated or scored (with numbers or via narrative) specifically in terms of that learning outcome. Then the scores are reported in aggregate so conclusions can be drawn about overall student achievement of that specific learning outcome.
Indirect assessments involve eliciting perspectives about student learning. Indirect assessment is most often done by asking students, usually via a survey or informal writing assignment, to describe their own sense of confidence in their ability to do whatever is specified as an intended learning outcome.
A best practice would be to include both direct and indirect assessments. Information from a compilation of student perceptions is especially useful when paired with direct assessment findings about the same learning outcome.
Targets are Missing
It's impossible to determine success if targets have not been identified for each outcome.
Targets are an number that you determine if you were successful in meeting the outcome. (e.g. 75% of students will score 80% or better on the creative writing assignment). A target will need to be identified for each assessment method for each outcome.
Assessing Everything All the Time
Just as it can seem logical to have goals for each course, it may seem intuitively logical to have methods that require every faculty member to collect products and analyze them for assessment information in every course. While regular participation in assessment is important, there is no value in becoming buried in data.
A better strategy is as follows:
- Identify two or three different ways of looking at each learning outcome
- To the degree possible, look for opportunities to make those methods overlap, so that a single method can help you look at multiple learning outcomes
- Establish a cyclical rotation of assessment so that every method or "tool" is used every two or three years. Key methods may be used more frequently, if deemed reasonable and appropriate.
- If you find (once information begins rolling in) that your findings are generating more questions than answers, develop additional strategies to dig more deeply into areas where you need to know more.
You want to collect enough information to gain a systematic (researched) understanding of student learning, but you don't want so many pieces of information that it's impossible to manage the data or find time to analyze what's been collected.
The aim isn't to have the most data. It's to have information that reveals patterns and trends in learning that will help faculty in your program make good decisions about any changes that might be discussed.