Academic Assessment

Overview

Benedictine University’s assessment system is used to produce data that informs actions designed to improve student learning across the University.  The system is based on a structure put in place by the University Assessment Task Force in 2015-2016, which delineates the reporting entities and the flow of information between these entities and the programs being assessed. 

University-wide Assessment Structure

The University assessment structure consists of three levels 1) the University Assessment Committee (UAC), 2) College Assessment Panels and the General Education Curriculum Committee Assessment Panel and, (3) Program Assessors from each program or unit across the University.

University Assessment Committee

The University Assessment Committee coordinates the assessment of student learning outcomes University-wide and reports on assessment results by 1) initiating University-wide assessment cycles, 2) summarizing results and actions taken in response to those results, and 3) reporting to the University community as appropriate.

The University Assessment Committee consists of a faculty representative from each College (Business, Science, Liberal Arts, and Education and Health Services), a library representative, the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, the Chair of the General Education Curriculum Committee, the Vice-President of Institutional Research, the Assistant Provost for Accreditation and Academic Assessment, the Vice-President and/or Associate Dean of Student Life, and representatives from other non-academic programs.  Student senators will be invited to attend meetings of this committee as appropriate. 

College Assessment Panel

The College Assessment Panel consists of the Dean and Department/Program chairs of that college, including those from the National Moser Center for Adult Learning (NMCAL) and the Mesa campus, and reviews the assessment results and responds to the results from each program within the college. The Panel then summarizes the results and responses from the Program Assessors and reports them to the University Assessment Committee.

General Education Curriculum Committee Assessment Panel

The General Education Curriculum Committee’s Assessment Panel oversees the regular assessment of the General Education curriculum, including co-curricular components, and in the process collects necessary data from programs and co-curricular units that contribute to the general requirements for degree-seeking undergraduates and reports the results of their assessment to the University Assessment Committee.

Program Assessors

Program Assessors are representatives from each University program or unit who are charged with regular assessment of and response to the assessment of selected student learning outcomes.  They may select these student learning outcomes themselves, or act on a request to assess particular learning outcomes from the College Assessment Panel, the General Education Curriculum Committee Assessment Panel and/or the University Assessment Committee.  Full-time and adjunct faculty and staff may be involved in assessment of learning outcomes.  

Program Assessors will select the assessment methods and tools that fit their particular programs and determine the schedule of assessment of the selected learning outcomes for their program.  They are also responsible for reviewing assessment results and determining appropriate actions in response to them.  Program Assessors report their results and actions to the College Assessment Panel, the General Education Curriculum Committee Assessment Panel and/or the University Assessment Committee as appropriate.

Why Outcomes Assessment?

Overwhelmingly, a focus on accountability and integrity is the aim of outcomes assessment in higher education; this shift of importance gives central focus to an institution’s ability to demonstrate continuous improvements as related to student learning.  Assessment in post-secondary education is the necessary foundation for building a culture of assessment.  Within this culture, a college or university demonstrates its commitment to evidence as aligned with the impact on student learning and the institutional mission.

The principal purpose of learning outcomes assessment is to provide indicators of student learning as it is occurring at multiple levels: institutional, programmatically, and at the course level.  At each level documentation must be available as to what students know and are able to do at the completion of their years spent in higher education. Are graduates prepared to demonstrate technical or professional competence as evidenced by the outcomes for all academic programs? 

Assessment results measure an institution’s attainment of intended outcomes, and interpretation of assessment results enables an institution to identify patterns of achievement or the lack thereof related to student learning.  Less than desirable assessments results spark innovative teaching, revisions of the delivery of curriculum and services, new approaches to pedagogies and advising, and opportunities to enhance learning. 

Increasingly, accrediting agencies demand quality assurance from institutions of higher education.  Therefore, they expect those institutions to have an assessment plan that is more than anecdotal but systematic and ongoing, providing evidence for measuring the assessment of student learning across all academic programs. 

Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Plan: Faculty Involvement

Throughout the University, all members--staff, faculty, and students--are fully invested and involved to varying degrees in the assessment process.  However, the cornerstone of outcomes assessment is the faculty because they are responsible for the planning and the implementation of a program’s assessment plan.  The information generated through the assessment process is valuable to all members of the University as they work toward improving their programs.  The data gathered will provide the evidence necessary to guide effective decision making in many areas including changes in programs, pedagogy, support services, policy, and procedure, as well as structural reorganization.   

The faculty is responsible for:
 
  •        Setting and establishing student learning outcomes and expected levels of achievement
  •        Selecting the methods and measurement tools used to evaluate student learning
  •        Determining how the results will be used
  •        Identifying changes needed to improve student learning and monitoring the impact of those changes
  •        Implementing curricular and/or programmatic changes based on data generated
  •        Promoting discussion and reflection among colleagues and the University community

Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Plan: Guiding Principles

1.    A culture of assessment is embraced by the administration, faculty, and staff who view assessment as a collective responsibility.

2.    Assessment planning is grounded in the University mission, values, and the strategic plan.

3.    The nine University-Wide Learning Outcomes serve as a framework for ensuring that students have the knowledge and skills needed for the work force.

4.    Undergraduate and graduate programs develop their program missions, goals, and student learning outcomes in accordance with the University mission.

5.    Assessment plans and educational activities are incorporated at the University, college, and program levels.

6.    Learning outcomes assessment is the framework for guiding the assessment process across the University.  Educational activities are linked to student learning outcomes. Data is analyzed and interpreted.  Results are used to inform practice and improve student learning.

7.    Results of learning outcomes assessment are shared on a regular basis with the University community as appropriate.

For more information on the university-wide assessment reporting structure, the components of an SLO Assessment Plan, frequently asked questions related to assessment, and other assessment related information, see the links below.

Learning Guide: Student Learning Outcomes Assessment

Summary of Direct Assessment Techniques

Summary of Indirect Assessment Techniques

University-wide Student Learning Outcomes 

FAQs on Assessment

Assessment of Student Learning (9 Principles of Good Practice)

Principles for Effective Assessment of Student Achievement (endorsed by HLC)