Assessment and Outcomes

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Getting Started

Virtually every program already is doing many kinds of informal assessments. Formalizing these activities into a viable and valuable assessment plan can be made relatively easy using the following guidelines.

1. Read all the pages in this section to get an overview of assessment, accountability, and student learning.

2. Participate with your program faculty in brainstorming discussions on these questions:

  • What particular skills, knowledge, or abilities should graduates of your program be able to demonstrate upon graduation?
  • At what levels of expertise should they be able to demonstrate such knowledge, skills, and abilities?
  • As specifically as possible, identify how you can assess whether students have acquired these abilities.

3. Based on the discussions from #2, write a list of specific program learning objectives. Include both discipline-specific learning objectives and across-the-curriculum developmental or integrative objectives.
(See more about writing program objectives)

Wherever possible use verbs to frame learning objectives as specific actions.
Example: "Graduates should be able to explain the impacts of various taxes on the economic decisions of producers and consumers."
list of "verbs" to use in objective statements (NCGIA)

4. For each learning objective, identify at least one (more are better) actual learning outcome which will be measured or observed to provide evidence of how well the objective has been met by each student.

5. Organize the set of learning objectives around common themes; use these themes to define tentative program goals. In addition to defining discipline-specific goals and objectives, program goals should also reflect the continuing development of Western's general education learning objectives throughout each major.

6. Integrate program goals into a tentative mission statement.

7. Repeat 3, 4, 5 to integrate mission, goals, and objectives and make them congruent.

At this point you have a mission statement, goals statement, learning objectives, and learning outcomes; what remains is to "close the loop" by establishing procedures and assigning responsibilities for:
a) Measuring actual outcomes and comparing them with intended objectives;
b) Implementing program changes based on assessment results; and
c) Assessing, documenting, and reporting the effectiveness of changes introduced during the previous assessment cycle.

8. Done!