Guiding Principles on Assessment
I. Philosophy Statement
PHILOSOPHY OF ASSESSMENT. Assessment should be guided by clearly stated, externally validated student learning processes and outcomes that flow from and support the institutional mission. Principles of assessment apply to all modes of instructional delivery.
Assessment is a means for general process improvement and accountability that occurs at different levels and in different contexts. Assessment should be fully integrated into the institution's entire operational system.
Each institution shall assume responsibility for conducting assessment, analyzing and interpreting the data collected, using the information to improve the assessed processes, and disseminating the results in a professional and ethical manner. It is particularly important that institutions involved in joint ventures cooperate in sharing and developing assessment instruments and processes. However, it is ultimately the responsibility of the degree granting institution to ensure that its graduates meet appropriate standards of performance. Institutions have an obligation to disseminate assessment results through appropriate channels for accountability and improvement.
PURPOSES OF ASSESSMENT. Assessment is a key process that is used in the academic, administrative, and student support services areas. Because the core process of higher education institutions is student learning, assessment in Missouri serves three primary purposes: A) improvement of student learning and instruction, B) accomplishment of institutional mission, and C) accountability for achievement of educational goals.
- Improvement of Student Learning and Instruction. Assessment cannot be effective without first clearly defining what is to be assessed. It is the responsibility of faculty to determine the student learning outcomes that drive the curriculum. Outcomes can be thought of as student "needs" as defined by faculty, employers, alumni, etc., and consist of specific sets of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. It is likely that an institution has a set of outcomes common to all graduates (e.g., the eight statewide general education goals and other institution-wide requirements) and other outcomes unique to the various degree and co-curricular programs. In order to continually improve student learning and instruction, student data derived from assessment of outcomes must be used as feedback to students and faculty.
- Achievement of Institutional Mission. Every department/unit mission should be aligned with the overarching mission of the institution and assessment should be used as a means of pursuing and documenting achievement of that mission.
- Accountability for Achievement of Educational Goals. Institutions of higher education in Missouri recognize a variety of constituencies to which they are appropriately accountable for the effectiveness of their educational programs including but not limited to students, parents, employers, taxpayers, the respective governing boards, the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, the state legislature, and accrediting bodies. To this end, each institution should collect evidence measuring progress toward meeting its goals based on state, national, and/or international academic standards and best practices.
MODES OF ASSESSMENT. Assessment should be based on multiple measures appropriate to the program and institution. The data collected should be longitudinal and should include both quantitative and qualitative elements. Assessment programs should be based on reliable research and proven practices. In addition, assessment instruments and methods should be continually evaluated to determine their utility in the assessment process.
INSTITUTIONAL AUTONOMY. It is essential that institutions have flexibility in selecting the assessment procedures that the faculty, administration, and staff judge to be consistent with the institution's specific mission, the students being assessed, and the purposes for the assessment. Each institution should establish an external evaluation mechanism whereby both the institution's program outcomes and assessment methods and instruments are regularly reviewed and evaluated by a unit or group external to the institution.
USE OF RESULTS. Institutional comparisons are appropriate and desirable. In order to be valid, institutional characteristics must be considered when choosing methods and groups for comparison. Students are best served when comparisons are used for institutional improvement, not for establishing rankings. Institutions should work with each other and external agencies to help the public understand the complexities involved in comparing results across institutions.
II. Facilitating continuous improvement
- General Education
Accountability for Achievement of Educational Goals. The eight statewide general education goals constitute the foundation for general education design and implementation. The 42-credit hour general education matrix provides basic information about how institutions fulfill their obligation to meet statewide expectations for accountability. Documentation should include relevant information about how assessments are administered, how student performance is measured (e.g., the criteria or rubrics used), how results are used for curriculum improvement, and how the assessment processes are reviewed and validated. Selected results are reported to the CBHE through the Performance Indicator Report, Mission Review, and Program Review processes which are periodically aligned to state policy issues, North Central Association Higher Learning Commission requirements, the national report card, and other sources.
There is no single instrument or method for universal measurement of general education student outcomes. Methods for measurement can include:
- Documentation of students attaining or surpassing defined competencies.
- Pre/post testing demonstrating gains in student learning.
- Improvement trends over time.
- Comparative data against appropriate peers.
- Combinations of the above.