Designing Effective Assessment
Designing Effective Assessment
PLANNING EFFECTIVE ASSESSMENT
Effective assessment doesn't just happen. It emerges over time as an outcome of thoughtful planning, and in the spirit of continuous improvement, it evolves as reflection on the processes of implementing and sustaining assessment suggests modifications.
A first step in planning is to identify and engage appropriate stakeholders. Faculty members, academic administrators, and student affairs professionals must play principal roles in setting the course for assessment, but students can contribute ideas and so can trustees, employers, and other community representatives. We expect faculty to set broad learning outcomes for general education and more specific outcomes for academic majors. Trustees of an institution, employers, and other community representatives can review drafts of these outcomes and offer suggestions for revision based on their perspectives regarding community needs. Student affairs professionals can comment on the outcomes and devise their own complementary outcomes based on plans to extend learning into campus environments beyond the classroom. Students have the ability to translate the language of the academy, where necessary, into terms that their peers will understand. Students also can help to design data-gathering strategies and instruments as assessment moves from the planning phase to implementation. Finally, regional accreditors and national disciplinary and professional organizations contribute ideas for the planning phase of assessment. They often set standards for assessing student learning and provide resources in the form of written materials and workshops at their periodic meetings.
Connecting Assessment to Valued Goals and Processes
Connecting assessment to institution-wide strategic planning is a way to increase the perceived value of assessment. Assessment may be viewed as the mechanism for gauging progress on every aspect of an institution's plan. In the planning process the need to demonstrate accountability for student learning may become a mechanism for ensuring that student learning outcomes, and their assessment, are included in the institutional plan. However assessment is used, plans to carry it out must be based on clear, explicit goals.
Since 1992 assessment of progress has been one of the chief mechanisms for shaping three strategic plans at Pace University (Barbara Pennipede and Joseph Morreale, see Resource A , p. 289 ). In 1997 the success of the first 5-year plan was assessed via a survey of the 15 administrators and 10 faculty leaders who had been responsible for implementing the plan. In 2001, in addition to interviews with the principal implementers, other faculty, staff, and students, as well as trustees, were questioned in focus groups and open meetings and via e-mail.
By 2003 the Pace president had decided that assessment of progress on the plan needed to occur more often-annually rather than every fifth year. Pace faculty and staff developed a strategic plan assessment grid, and data such as student performance on licensing exams, participation in key campus programs, and responses to the UCLA freshman survey were entered in appropriate cells of the grid to be monitored over time.
Likewise, at Iona College 25 dashboard indicators are used to track progress on all elements of Iona's mission (Warren Rosenberg, see p. 262 ). Iona's Key Performance Indicators, which are called KPIs, include statistics supplied by the institutional research office on such measures as diversity of the faculty and student body (percentages of females and nonwhite constituents), 6-year graduation rates, and percentage of graduates completing internships. Student responses to relevant items on the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) are used in monitoring progress toward the mission e