Academic assessment is an ongoing process that requires continuous reevaluation as to whether teaching and learning processes achieve the goals and objectives defined by faculty in the academic unit. When students succeed in achieving those goals and objectives, one might assume that the teaching and learning processes are functioning well. When students do not achieve those goals and objectives, changes should be made in teaching and learning processes. Reevaluation after changes are made will suggest if those changes were helpful to student learning. In this way, assessment creates a continuous cycle through these six steps, effectively closing the loop, in the assessment program and teaching/learning processes.
In making changes, faculty should consider the following two questions:
- What elements of the teaching/learning processes should be added, deleted, or changed to improve student success?
- Did the assessment plan for the academic unit produce results that have face validity? If not, why not?
Making changes to enhance student success requires reflection and thoughtful analysis foreshadowed in the actions suggested in the section on “How do we define the process of academic assessment?” This process facilitates:
- academic units “to agree on ways to use this evidence to support improved student learning as well as an improved process for assessment”, and
- making use of findings to “provide the evidence to document and support explanations of student performance” and as “an opportunity to re-examine objectives, methods and measures as feedback to help students to improve their learning.”
Some believe when the words ‘improvement” or “enhancement” are used that something is wrong. That is not the case. Most faculty, for example, are accustomed to reviewing and looking to improve what occurs during class time, at the end of a course, or in committees that discuss curriculum, pedagogy, and other educational matters. The intent of step six is the same -- to plan, often with others, new ways to accomplish their goals for students.
Some questions that need consideration at this juncture follow.
- Do the objectives and findings define as well as answer the questions that are important to understanding and enhancing student learning?
- Are faculty and students motivated to participate in the assessment process? If not, why not?
- Has thought been given to the use of benchmarks based on comparable student groups?
- Are there resources available to assist in areas of assessment that are found problematic?
- Is there adequate support from the university to allow for continuous implementation and evaluation of the assessment plan?