Introduction to Assessment
Why Assess Student Learning Outcomes?
Faculty and departments already evaluate the performance of students in their courses and programs in order to provide feedback to students, maintain the quality and effectiveness of the curriculum, and track student's progress as they complete the requirements for their degree. In one sense, therefore, the concept of assessment is neither new nor unrelated to teaching and university service, although expectations for assessment have changed some extent over time. Furthermore, faculty are increasingly being asked to make the assessment process more transparent for students and to document their results by writing reports and sharing them with internal and external stakeholders. Although assessment reports are now being utilized for multiple purposes, the primary aim of assessment is still to evaluate student work relative to specific outcomes in order to support and improve student learning.
Meaningful assessment is beneficial for students, faculty, and departments for the following reasons:
- Clearly stating measurable outcomes and communicating the key outcomes in which students are expected to demonstrate proficiency, by the end of a course or the completion of a program, facilitates the successful achievement of these outcomes by students.
- Valid assessments use measures (assignments) that are aligned with the student learning outcomes and this enables faculty and departments to determine whether or not each student in the sample has achieved the expected level of proficiency. Furthermore, when an assignment really focuses on the designated student learning outcome, the assessment results provide a wealth of detail that can identify patterns and strengths and weaknesses in student performance.
- Documenting relevant and valid data in regard to student learning outcomes will enable programs to either demonstrate the need for changes and specific kinds of support or to demonstrate that their students are meeting expectations in regard to the relevant student learning outcomes. Results can be provided internally to administrators as well as to legislative bodies and accreditation agencies such as WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
Every department/program at Fresno State has developed and implemented a Student Outcomes Assessment Plan; assessment activities should correspond to the SOAP. The SOAP should also be periodically reviewed and revised as necessary. If needed, it can be revised mid-year to change the assessment activities that will be carried out that year. Additional information and examples can be found on the SOAP page of this website.
Overview of the Assessment Process:
Next: Programmatic Purposes