Frequently Asked Questions  

What is assessment?

In Assessing Student Learning and Institutional Effectiveness: Understanding Middle States Expectations, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education defines assessment as follows:

"Assessment of student learning may be characterized as the third element of a four-step teaching-learning-assessment cycle:

  1. Developing clearly articulated written statements, expressed in observable terms, of key learning outcomes.
  2. Designing courses, programs and experiences that provide intentional opportunities for students to achieve those learning outcomes.
  3. Assessing student achievement of those key learning outcomes.
  4. Using the results of those assessments to improve teaching and learning."

Does assessment require a particular approach or methodology?

 No. According to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, "while the commission expects institutions to assess student learning, it does not prescribe a specific approach or methodology … Whatever the approach, effective assessment processes are useful, cost-effective, reasonably accurate and truthful, systematic, and sustained."  (from Assessing Student Learning and Institutional Effectiveness: Understanding Middle States Expectations)

What makes for good departmental/program student learning outcomes?

Learning outcomes should be

  • of sufficient rigor for a higher education institution
  • clear
  • consistent with the mission of the institution
  • related to student learning in the department or program
  • assessable

How does one measure student learning?

Middle states emphasizes the use of direct as well as indirect measures

  • Direct measures include examinations, writing assignments, coursework portfolios, etc.
  • Indirect measures include surveys, interviews, etc.

How does assessment work for interdisciplinary programs?

Interdisciplinary programs pose their own assessment challenges, but the basic assessment process remains the same:

  • Identifying student learning outcomes consistent with the program's mission
  • Finding ways to measure those outcomes
  • Using the results of the assessment process for program improvement

What information should be in the assessment report? When is the report due? Where does it go?

The assessment report is an annual report on student learning. The assessment committee, department chair or program director for each academic department/program is responsible for generating the report, which can be emailed to the assessment coordinator for the college (schmidsj@union.edu and crosbyk@union.edu). The reports are due on January 10, annually. Each report should include a summary of assessments completed during the year, results from the assessment, and changes, implemented or planned, to improve student learning. Reports will also be written for general education, WAC, and international programs. All of the reports will be made available on the College's Nexus website.