Assessment and Outcomes

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Developing a Program Assessment Plan

Academic departments at Western show considerable variation in levels of development of their assessment programs. Many, especially those forced to establish assessment procedures to meet the professional accreditation requirements of their disciplines, have quite highly developed plans for assessing program outcomes, including especially student learning outcomes. Many others have not had such incentives, and have developed only vestigial assessment plans at best. Even those programs with considerable experience with assessment do not necessarily share a common view of the importance of various learning outcomes or a common format for documenting their assessment activities or reporting their findings.

It is useful to acknowledge this range of experience with program assessment by identifying three stages of development of program assessment plans: beginning, intermediate, and integrated.

The Planning stage is the beginning level of implementation. It is characterized by tentativeness and uncertainty; mission and goals are not clearly defined; program learning objectives are not clearly defined and may not be congruent with goals; outcomes measures are not good estimators of program objectives; assessment data are being collected or analyzed only sporadically; classroom assessment procedures are not congruent with stated program goals; or collected data has either not been analyzed or results have not applied for program improvement.

The Emerging stage is the intermediate level of implementation. It is characterized by familiarity, growing confidence, and growing commitment to assessment; faculty members are increasingly engaged in collecting and applying assessment data; assessment results are increasingly used in decisions about course sequencing, faculty allocations, teaching methods, program curricula, choice of instructional resources, planning and budgeting, and program improvement; and faculty are increasingly engaged in an ongoing conversation about program improvement based on assessment findings.

The Maturing stage is the integrated level of implementation. It is characterized by: continued development of the processes of the "emerging" level, the increasingly important role of student learning and teaching excellence in defining program effectiveness and guiding program changes, and the full engagement of faculty in an active "culture of evidence" dedicated to improving student learning, performance, involvement, and achievement.

Western's goal is for all academic program assessment plans to evolve to the "maturing" stage. This website is to assist program faculty in the development, implementation, and improvement of unit assessment plans, and to establish a unified annual reporting format which summarizes departmental assessment activities. In addition, staff at the Center for Instructional Innovation and Assessment and the Office of Institutional Assessment are available for assistance.