Glossary of Assessment Terms

The following terms are used in the Union College assessment plan, as well as in documents that deal indirectly with assessment such as the strategic plan. This file explains how they are used in that context and in the context of Middle States’ expectations for assessment. Words in bold italics are included in the glossary and used in the explanation of a different word in the glossary.

Assessment of institutional effectiveness: One of two types of assessment Middle States expects the college to perform: it asks how well the college is achieving goals that are not directly related to student learning. Contrast with assessment of student learning, which asks how well students are achieving the learning outcomes the college has articulated.

Assessment of student learning: One of two types of assessment Middle States expects the college to perform: it asks how well students are achieving the learning outcomes the college has articulated. Contrast with assessment of institutional effectiveness, which asks how well the college is achieving goals that are not directly related to student learning.

College-wide level:  one of two levels at which Middle States expects us to conduct assessment. Middle States refers to this as the institutional level; to avoid confusion with assessment of institutional effectiveness, this is normally referred to as the college-wide level in Union documents. The other level at which Middle States expects us to conduct assessment is unit level.

Director: the head of an office which conducts assessment. Most have "director" in their job title but a few have other titles (e.g. "manager"). "Directors" is used as a collective term for all of them.

Goal: A long-run or enduring thing that the college or one of its units aims to achieve. They are revised infrequently; generally only when the college or a unit perceives that its fundamental mission has changed. The college defines strategies which it implements to achieve the goals, and most offices have annual objectives which they implement to achieve their goals. Goals for student learning are also called learning outcomes.

Institutional level:  one of two levels at which Middle States expects us to conduct assessment. To avoid confusion with assessment of institutional effectiveness, this is normally referred to as the college-wide level in Union documents. The other level at which Middle States expects us to conduct assessment is unit level.

Learning outcome: Something that graduating students are expected to have learned while at the College. It could be knowledge, it could be a skill, or in some contexts it could be a set of values (for example, professional ethics). Learning outcomes are defined by academic departments and programs, and college-wide, by the General Education Board, the WAC program, and International Programs. A learning outcome plays a role in assessment of student learning that is parallel to the role that a goal plays in institutional assessment.

Objective: Something that an office aims to do in a given year in order to more effectively achieve one or more of its long-run goals. Offices normally define new objectives annually.

Office: A group of college employees, headed by a director (or equivalent, in a few cases) which is expected to file an annual assessment report. All institutional assessment reports are filed by offices. Three assessment of student learning reports are filed by offices – General Education, WAC, and International Programs. The rest are filed by academic departments, which are parallel to offices for this purpose.

Project: Something the college does in order to implement a strategy. Projects are one-time activities that last a finite time (possibly more than one year, but usually less than five). There will be a number of different projects for each strategy, and some projects may contribute to more than one strategy.

Strategy: Something that the college aims to do in order to more effectively achieve one or more of its long-run goals. The college normally defines new strategies when it revises the strategic plan, which is expected to happen once every five years. Strategies are expected to last for five years (or more if they are retained in the following strategic plan). Contrast with projects which are expected to last for shorter periods of time.

Supervisor: Someone who supervises one or more directors and receives assessment reports from them. This group includes the College vice-presidents, the academic deans, the Chief of Staff, and the Chief Diversity Officer.

Unit level: One of two levels at which Middle States expects the college to conduct assessment; the other is the institutional level or college-wide level (the former name used by Middle States, the latter more commonly used in Union documents). At Union, a unit means either an academic department or program, with a chair or director who is responsible for assessment (though small programs are not required to do assessment) or an office with a director who is responsible for assessment.