Assessment, as with most things, is a process. It is one of inquiry, of trying to determine what is happening, what’s working, what isn’t, and what needs to be changed. The process is best described by articulating what assessment is, and what assessment is not.
What Assessment Is
Assessment puts into words the things we’re doing to demonstrate:
- Which outcomes will be assessed over/within a given period of time;
- Who will collect information, and, subsequently, analyze it and report on it;
- What information will be collected;
- Where (and when) information will be collected;
- When each outcome will be assessed;
- How information will be collected and reported; and,
- Why the information to be gathered for a specific program/department is important/necessary (in other words, how what we’re gathering demonstrates that programs’ missions/goals are being met).
What Assessment Isn’t
There are a few things we don’t do as part of assessment activities. Specifically, we won’t be:
- Engaging in assessment for assessment’s sake – if we’re not going to use the data, we should not collect it.
- Informing ourselves without driving us to action or change.
- Evaluating personnel. Assessment conducted as part of the Office of Student Affairs Assessment & Research focuses on programs, services, and efforts, with a particular focus on knowledge and learning gains.
- One assessment once. Assessment is an ongoing, cyclical process.
- Measuring everything, everywhere, all the time. Just as we program or deliver services in a prioritized manner, so, to, is how we conduct assessment.
Planning the Plan
Beyond this, it is important to have a plan. Plans help us understand where we’re trying to go – after all, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?
To begin building an assessment plan for a program or service, see this assessment plan template (MS Word).