The Teaching and Assessment Committee (TAC) asks that academic departments and programs develop assessment activities with three components: a written assessment plan, methods for measuring student learning, and an biannual report on assessment activities. Details about these components are given below. Development of the plan and submission of the report (in consultation with departmental/program colleagues) is the responsibility of the Department/Program Chair.

The Assessment Plan

A good assessment plan should describe the learning goals of the department/program, the methods used to measure student progress toward those goals, and a concrete plan for collecting, managing, analyzing, storing and using the data. There is considerable flexibility in meeting these criteria. TAC encourages departments and programs to explore questions about student learning that they are interested in, and learning goals can change over time. In addition, departments/programs may choose to focus on a subset of learning goals to measure in any particular year. It is assumed that the assessment plan is a document that is revised as needed. In forming or revising a plan, TAC recommends that departments/programs consider these questions: What do we want to know about what our students are learning? How can we document what we observe about our majors and minors? How compelling is the learning evidence we have? Is it relevant to our stated goals? TAC is happy to assist departments/programs in developing workable, meaningful assessment plans that serve their unique interests.

Measurement Methods

There are many ways to assess student learning and each department/program should select methods that will address their specific goals. Direct measures of student learning include pre- and post-tests on course or major content, comparisons of papers written by first-year students and seniors, and the evaluation of synthesis papers for capstone seminars in terms of how well students are demonstrating certain kinds of knowledge or skills. Indirect measures of student learning are data collected in surveys where the students self-report on their progress. Both kinds of measures, as well as others that might be devised, can be valuable to departments/programs in terms of providing perspective on student learning. TAC provides information to departments/programs on different measurement methods as needed. Additional support is available from the Assessment Coordinator who is appointed by Academic Affairs.

The Biannual Report

The biannual report functions to inform TAC of the progress the department/program has made in carrying out its assessment plan. These reports have been useful in allowing TAC to provide feedback to departments and programs on measurement methods or other assessment issues. Reports also allow the department or program to describe strengths that have been revealed or curricular changes that have been made based on assessment data.

Finally, these reports serve the crucial function of documenting active departmental/programmatic assessment activities for our accreditation agency. The biannual report is generally due at the end of each biannual academic year, and is usually in the range of 2-4 pages of text. Detailed directions for assessment reports are sent directly to the program/department chairs with a biannual call for report submission. In general, the report should include the following:

  1. A list of the assessment measures that were used during the report timeframe, and the classes and number of students, or percentage of majors involved. Copies of instruments should be provided as necessary.

  2. A summary of data/results from those measures. Spreadsheets (such as Excel) work well for tabulating results. Data summaries should also include basic descriptions such as trends or patterns. Data may be shared in aggregate or disaggregated depending on the needs of the department/program. Description of how the data/results/evidence gathered have been disseminated to the department/program and any results of conversations about these data. In particular, departments/programs are asked to report what changes (large or small) have been considered and note any that will be implemented as a result of these data. If no changes are planned, describe how the data suggest this as an appropriate course of action.

  3. If your department intends to change the assessment measures or procedures it uses, that action should be stated in your biannual and any additional instruments or related items should be included in the submission.