Faculty Senate recently approved an update to university-wide assessment policy, making more explicit the value of genuine assessment of student learning, as a way to identify areas of weakness, as well as strengths, and help guide program improvement. The statement, added to the Educational Policies and Procedures Manual (EPPM, Section 11.4), also specifies that assessment results will not be used punitively against individuals or programs, or used alone for high stakes decisions.

The Liaison Council for Undergraduate Assessment unanimously supported this update to better communicate the value and purpose of assessment at Washington State University. “Genuine assessment should be a tool to help academic programs meet new and evolving needs of their students, discipline, and society,” explained Kimberly Green, Director of the Office of Assessment of Teaching and Learning, and Liaison Council chair. “The impetus for this update was not mis-use of assessment data at WSU — but the desire to make our values clear, as academic programs seek to give students the best possible education.”

WSU’s new statement is in keeping with policies at other universities to support assessment work and to recognize the opportunities for growth and innovation that identifying areas for improvement can offer.

EPPM Section 11.4, Purpose for Assessment, now reads in its entirety:

The purpose for program assessment of student learning is to provide an accurate and honest appraisal of: the extent to which students fully meet expected program-level learning outcomes; where there is room for improvement; and the strategies faculty, departments, colleges, and WSU are using to support and improve student learning. Assessment results can provide valuable information to faculty and program leadership to assist them in making informed decisions regarding their curricula and programs. WSU seeks to ensure that assessment occurs consistently and systematically and that its results contribute to university-wide planning that supports quality education.

To underscore the value of genuine inquiry into student learning achievement that supports educational quality at WSU, the Faculty agree that 1) assessment results identifying areas for improvement should be viewed positively, as an opportunity, and should never be used punitively; that 2) assessment results should not be used to evaluate an individual student, faculty member, or staff member; and that 3) assessment results by themselves should not be used for high-stakes decisions, such as program closure.

The university’s overarching aim is for assessment to be meaningful and useful to faculty and students. ATL extends appreciation to all faculty for past and continuing efforts to support student learning and quality undergraduate offerings informed by assessment of student learning in the majors. WSU’s goal of a transformative undergraduate education is stronger for these efforts.