Every institution accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities is required to maintain quality and implement plans and strategies for program improvement. As part of this requirement, the institution engages in regular and ongoing assessment to validate student achievement of university-wide, departmental, and course-level student learning outcomes. Furthermore, one of the requirements for institutions seeking to attain eligibility for federal funds is to hold Accredited or Candidate status with one of the accrediting agencies recognized by the Secretary of the U. S. Department of Education (NWCCU Handbook).
Assessment and the University Mission
Assessment of university programs, whether in academics or student affairs, is intended to assure that the institution appropriately mobilizes its resources to carry out its mission and core themes. This requires several things: a university-wide understanding of the mission of the institution, clear objectives intentionally designed to accomplish that mission, effective means of assessing the degree to which the university’s programs achieve those objectives, and the university’s commitment to the changes and reforms required by that assessment. The more clearly the university identifies the alignment between the mission and the efforts to measure its own success in carrying out that mission, the more effective that institution can be in preparing leaders that can meet the needs of their community, region, nation, and the world.
Assessment, according to Linda Suskie, is “the ongoing process of establishing clear, measurable expected outcomes of student learning; ensuring that students have sufficient opportunities to achieve those outcomes; systematic gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well student learning matches our expectations; [and] using the resulting information to understand and improve student learning.”
Suskie, Linda, Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide, 2nd edition (San Francisco, Jossy-Bass, 2009, p. 4)
For information on how assessment is conducted for academic programs, the Assessment Cycle provides a blueprint. A number of Assessment Resources are available for additional information and tools to use. Frequently Asked Questions are offered for further insight.