1 Defining the Process of Assessment

The process of assessment, as it is understood in this guide, recommends that academic units:

  • undertake activities to clarify the needs of their students and faculty, relevant administrators, community persons, and others involved with the outcomes of student learning.
  • enable the unit to decide what academic goals they value and thus what they expect students to learn.
  • determine and implement the best approaches to methods and measures that will evaluate the degree to which student learning outcomes meet these expectations.
  • agree on ways to use this evidence to support improved student learning as well as an improved process for its assessment.

A comprehensive definition of assessment that portrays this process was proposed to the American Association for Higher Learning by Thomas Angelo, AAHE Bulletin, November 1995, p.7. The arrowed statements by ACAA following each component of the definition specify, broadly, actions to be taken.

Assessment is an ongoing process aimed at understanding and improving student learning. It involves:

  • making our expectations explicit and public;

All academic units should articulate clearly their learning goals as measurable objectives of their programs and ultimately of their courses, involving and sharing the development of these objectives with students, administrators, and other stakeholders.

  • setting appropriate criteria and high standards for learning quality;

Standards of excellence are required when establishing learning expectations and the criteria for evaluating learning outcomes to assure the assessment process has as its primary goal the continuous improvement of the quality of student achievement.

  • ​systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well performance matches those expectations and standards;

Faculty members in academic units should use valid and reliable ways to assess student learning, employ multiple measures on a regular basis, and ascertain the degree to which learning outcomes coincide with objectives and standards agreed on by the unit.

  • and using the resulting information to document, explain, and improve performance.

These results, then, provide the evidence to document and support explanations of student performance. Using these results, the unit has an opportunity to re-examine objectives, methods and measures as feedback to help students to improve their learning.