About Program Assessment
Assessment is the process of collecting and analyzing information to determine if progress is being made toward a desired end. While this broad definition is applicable to a range of goals and contexts, the Office of Assessment for Curricular Effectiveness (ACE) supports the assessment of student learning outcomes (SLOs) in the context of undergraduate academic programs at WSU.
Program-level student learning outcomes assessment, specifically, is a process of faculty identifying what students should be able to do and know by the end of an academic program, measuring progress toward meeting these learning outcomes, and using that information to inform decision-making about teaching, learning, and curricula.
Program Assessment Cycle
In this context, program-level assessment (see graphic) begins with begins with program-level SLOs and questions about student learning in the curriculum. After reviewing the program’s curriculum map indicating where particular SLOs are highlighted in the curriculum, faculty identify direct and indirect measures to gather evidence of student learning about their majors. The evidence is analyzed, discussed by the faculty, and used to inform program decisions/actions to support student learning, including those about instruction, assignments, the curriculum, and dialog about teaching and learning.
Program Assessment vs. Research
While similar, program-level assessment and research have different purposes, contexts, and limitations.
- Like research, program-level assessment involves asking specific questions, using good practices, collecting and analyzing evidence, and using results to evaluate claims or hypotheses. Like research, assessment may use quantitative or qualitative methods, and often benefits from mixed methods.
- Unlike research, program-level assessment lacks control of many outside variables that affect students and instruction, doesn’t include a control group, and isn’t intended to develop theories, test concepts, or produce generalizable knowledge. Many factors limit assessment, including limitations on time, resources, design, and implementation.
- Rather, program-level assessment uses available time and resources to produce reasonably accurate information about student learning in the context of a particular program or institution, which can guide local practice or decisions. For example, decisions about curriculum, teaching techniques, assignments, syllabi, materials, facilities, technology, scheduling, and prerequisites are made regularly by faculty and departments and should be informed by assessment.