Assessment is an iterative process, commonly depicted as a cycle, as in the figure above. The assessment cycle provides a predictable sequence of activities to help faculty members focus on one area of study at a time. What is learned from one cycle is reason for pause and reflection. This lays a foundation for the next cycle.
Readers should note that this assessment model assumes that teaching and learning are already taking place. Assessment is used to gather information about existing educational practice in order to improve students' learning.Overview of the Steps in the Assessment Cycle
This section provides a brief overview of what is intended in each step of the assessment cycle. In later sections of this guidebook, specific examples appear that are related to assessing academic programs. At the end of each step described below, readers may link to the related step in the academic program assessment cycle.
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The first step in the assessment cycle is to identify the student learning outcomes that should occur as a result of the students participation in a single course or in an academic program. These may be developed from reflection about the expected results of teaching and learning, or they may be derived from existing sources such as these: (a) the college mission; (b) the strategic goals of the college; (c) the academic department mission; (d) academic department goals (e) relevant professional or licensure standards; and (f) course objectives.
Initial assessments should focus on one intended learning outcome rather than on all possible learning outcomes. The selected outcome should be clearly stated in terms that are measurable. Specific examples appear in later sections of this guidebook.
Step 2 is the information-gathering phase. In this step of the assessment cycle, faculty members decide how to measure the intended learning outcome. This may be done through qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods, and using a direct and (if possible), indirect approach(es). Specific examples of different types of assessments are provided in later sections of this guidebook. This step in the assessment cycle also includes administering the assessment(s), establishing benchmarks or setting performance targets and analyzing the results. Successful completion of this step of the cycle requires careful resource decisions, including such elements as the cost of instruments, time available for administration and scoring, appropriate data analysis, etc
No assessment is complete until its results have been understood and used to improve the program or activity that was assessed. At Step 3 of the assessment cycle, faculty members discuss and interpret the results of the assessment and consider their implications for improving educational practice. Step 3 also includes planning any changes in programs or activities that are supported by the evidence of the assessment.
At Step 4 of the assessment cycle, existing programs or activities are revised, based on the results of the interpretive work in Step 3. It is important that the changes introduced at this step be tied directly to the information derived from the assessment. Once educational activity has been modified to reflect what was learned in the original assessment and those changes have had time to work, it is time to assess again, to learn whether the changes were effective in improving intended learning outcomes.
Last Modified: October 19, 2012