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Program Assessment

"The mission of Muskingum University is to offer quality academic programs...."
- From the Muskingum University mission statement.

Assessment is the foundation of any modern university’s quality assurance program, and it is increasingly expected by various constituencies and stakeholders.  The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, moreover – and in line with most all U.S. accreditation agencies – requires it in its accreditation process, stating that the "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."1

More specifically, it is required by several Core Components of HLC’s current “Criteria for Accreditation,”2 and recent statements by the Commission further clarify that the principles of assessment extend beyond the classroom to the areas of programs and majors:

“A learning-centered environment allows an institution dedicated to quality to develop everyone's potential talents by centering attention on learning …. By always seeking more effective ways to enhance student achievement through careful design and evaluation of programs, courses, and learning environments, both the institution and its employees demonstrate an enthusiastic commitment to organizational and personal learning as the route to continuous improvement.  Seeing itself as a set of systems that can always improve through measurement, assessment of results, and feedback, the institution designs practical means for gauging its students' and its own progress toward clearly identified objectives.3

Program Assessment Overview
Each academic year’s program assessment process should include at least one departmental or program meeting devoted to general program assessment issues, the discussion of collected data, the identification of issues to be acted upon that will improve student learning, the delegation (if needed) of responsibilities, and a plan and timeline for carrying things out.4

The deadline for each year’s annual Program Assessment Reports is the first Monday of June.  Any Registrar or Academic Affairs-related reports that are specifically required by the program assessment process will be made available to report filers no later than one month prior to the deadline for the submission of reports.  The Vice-President for Academic Affairs will review reports from all programs and will respond in writing.  The Vice-President’s response(s) will be made available during the annual Fall Faculty Conference.  While the results of the program assessment process may be used to inform various administrative decisions on budget, personnel, and curriculum – as well as to supplement and further inform other assessment and learning initiatives undertaken by the university - the over-arching goal of the process is to continually improve program effectiveness and, most importantly, program-related student learning and skills acquisition.

Program assessment, as with individual course assessment, 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.
  • The analysis of the gathered information, and (most importantly)
  • Utilizing the information gathered so as to take action to improve – or to further improve - program effectiveness and student learning.

How Program Assessment Differs From Other Types/Levels
As with other forms, or levels, of assessment, program assessment assembles, analyzes, and uses information related to stated outcomes so as to improve student learning. In particular, however, it seeks to define the program's impact on the specific outcomes related to a specific group or subset of students. In general, one might say that program assessment seeks to determine:

  • What program-related knowledge the students have acquired
  • How successful they are in manipulating or applying this knowledge, and
  • The ultimate utility of this acquired knowledge.

In "closing the loop" - taking action - all of the above is fed back into the cycle to re-energize it and to enhance learning, improve the program, and contribute to overall institutional quality.

Program assessment should:

  1. Build upon what the department is already doing.
  2. Assist in identifying - and remedying - shortcomings.
  3. Be sustainable.

Program Assessment at Muskingum University is Conducted in Two Ways:

  • Annual reporting.
  • Additional comprehensive analyses performed after the collection of three years worth of program assessment data.  Presently, the comprehensive analyses are scheduled for filing with the 2013-2014 annual reports.

All reports are to be submitted electronically to Academic Affairs using the current template.

  • 2011-2012 Program Assessment [New Window] Template.
  • Learning Goals Template for Assessment of Majors.

Resources for Effective Report Creation

  • Assessment, Rubrics and Taxonomies, See: Assessment Resources for Faculty.

The following open in new windows:

  • Program Assessment Process Flowchart (University of Central Florida)
  • Creating a Mission Statement. (Stanford University)
  • Example of How to Create a Vision Statement. (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association)
  • Tips for Departments' Program Assessment Meetings.

1. “The Higher Learning Commission Statement on Assessment of Student Learning,” February of 2003.
Link to statement available from: www.ncahlc.org/Information-for-Institutions/publications.html

2. “Criteria for Accreditation,” The Handbook of Accreditation, Chapter 3. 

3. “AQIP Principles of High Performance Institutions,” www.ncahlc.org/AQIP/principles.htm  Reaffirmed in the new “Criteria for Accreditation,” effective for all accreditation site visits after January 1, 2013.  The new Criterion Four requires that the “institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its educational programs…and it evaluates their effectiveness through processes designed to promote continuous improvement.”  Emphasis added.  The new Criterion Three requires every degree program offered by the institution to engage students “in collecting, analyzing, and communicating information; in mastering modes of inquiry or creative work; and in developing skills adaptable to changing environments." View the new Criteria [new window] here.

4. Suggestions regarding the meeting part of the process are available above.

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