Benefits of Program-Level Assessment
At the heart of the assessment of learning outcomes is the constant improvement of academic programs and the student learning experience. A successfully implemented assessment strategy will:
- Provide clearer sense of what holds your program together;
- Ensure course activities, assessments, and content are aligned in a coherent way;
- Establish a (high) minimum standard students should work to meet or exceed;
- Communicate to students what you expect of them.
Advantages for Cyclical Review Self-Studies
Early implementation of an assessment plan will also greatly assist units in preparing the self-study required for the cyclical program review. Once a formalized assessment strategy is in place, Section B of the self-study will essentially write-itself! The increased program knowledge that is naturally a part of the assessment process will also greatly facilitate other sections of the self-study as well.
A Quick Note on the Use of Grades to Assess Learning Outcomes
There are many ways in which learning outcomes can be assessed, however student grades are not usually one of them. Grades are typically considered to be poor measures of actual learning for the following reasons:
- Grades are given to individual students for individual work. Assessment is more global and focused on the overall achievements of a population of students;
- Grades often include more information than students acquired skills or abilities (for example, grades can be affected by attendance or adherence to guidelines). Therefore, grades measure student achievement of learning outcomes only indirectly;
- Grades often represent the view of one person. Assessment is a group process that is based on agreed upon beliefs and practices.
For these reasons, we do not recommend the use of grades as evidence of learning outcomes. However, the same learning artifacts used to determine grades (e.g., essays, presentations, exam questions) can be used for this purpose.