Assessment of Student Learning at Muskingum University
(Page undergoing update/revision)
"The mission of Muskingum University is to offer
quality academic programs...."
- From the Muskingum
University mission statement.
Assessment: A Definition
"Assessment is an ongoing process aimed at understanding and improving student
learning. It involves making our expectations explicit and public; setting
appropriate criteria and high standards for learning quality; systematically
gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well
performance matches those expectations and standards; and using the resulting
information to document, explain, and improve performance. When it is embedded
effectively within larger institutional systems, assessment can help us focus
our collective attention, examine our assumptions, and create a shared academic
culture dedicated to assuring and improving the quality of higher education."
Thomas A. Angelo, "Reassessing (and Defining) Assessment," AAHE Bulletin, 48/3 (November 1995), p. 7.
Assessment, therefore, relies upon four basic and fundamental elements:
- The articulation of goals for student learning
- The gathering of information that measures the degree to which the goals for student learning are being met
- Analyzing the gathered information, and (most importantly)
- Utilizing the information gathered so as to take action to improve – or to further improve – student learning.
The Importance of Assessment
"Assessment of student academic achievement is an essential component of every organization's effort to evaluate overall effectiveness...[and]...it is key to improving student learning. Assessment...is fundamental for all organizations that place student learning at the center of their educational endeavors."
The Higher Learning Commission Statement on Assessment of Student Learning, February of 2003.
Common Levels of Assessment in Higher Education
Assessment Versus Evaluation
It is important to distinguish between "evaluation" and its related term, "assessment."
- Evaluation, to use a commonly-cited definition from Goldman and Zakel (2009) may be said to be the analysis of data and/or information by faculty in order to make a determination about a student's performance or the quality of a body of work. The grading of an assignment or overall class performance, for example.
- Assessment, by contrast, is the analysis and use of - to keep this simple - that same data, and more, so as to make an informed decision about what is being learned and - most importantly - using that data as a basis for action to modify "teaching" so as to improve student learning. To put an Aristotlean twist upon this, one might say that improved or enhanced teaching and learning is the end "for the sake of which" data generation and analysis is done. Genuinely effective assessment, furthermore, is neither passive, nor static - it requires analysis and action - and it is ongoing.
Assessment at Muskingum University: An Overview
The 2003 Assurance Section of the Comprehensive Evaluation Report to the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) recommended to Muskingum University that it develop a comprehensive assessment plan for student learning. At that time, the HLC team found that “there was little evidence of campus understanding of student learning assessment. Very few faculty could differentiate between program review and learning assessment or between assessing inputs and outcomes. Furthermore, few could articulate a rationale for assessment other than compliance with external criteria.”
Issued this “wake-up call,” the university has worked to better educate itself regarding the intricacies of assessment and how it should be done. The result is that Muskingum University and its faculty have not only worked to acquire greater skill in assessment theories and methods, but recognize - and utilize - assessment methods as powerful tools for improving teaching and learning.
Per the university's Academic Policies and Procedures (APAP 420.2 K) Muskingum University's Undergraduate Assessment Committee is responsible for assessment activities:
- To refine and implement the process of, and the timetable for, the assessment plan.
- To conduct an ongoing evaluation of the assessment plan, monitoring and documenting its effectiveness.
- To report periodically to the faculty and to the administration on the assessment plan and its effectiveness.
- To publish a calandar which clearly indicates the assessment schedule.
- To review data for validity, reliability, and institutional implications.
- To make data available to the faculty and the administration.