Every NWCCU accredited institution is required to maintain quality and implement improvement. As part of this requirement the institution engages in regular and ongoing assessment to validate student achievement of the 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 Mission
Assessment aligns with the mission of the university in the following way: The greater the evidence of congruence between organizational outcomes and the statements of mission, goals, and objectives, the more institutional effectiveness is demonstrated. Student outcomes assessment is the art of assembling and analyzing both qualitative and quantitative learning outcome evidence in order to examine their congruence with an institution’s state purpose and educational objectives.
(Volkwein, J. Fredericks (2009). Assessing Student Outcomes: Why, Who, What, How?. San Francisco, CA., Josey-Bass.)
Palomba and Banta (1999) define the outcomes assessment process as: The systematic collection, review, and use of information about educational programs undertaken for the purpose of improving student learning and development. Assessment is not an evaluation of faculty performance.
(Palomba, C.A., and T. W. Banta. (1999). Assessment Essentials. San Francisco, CA., Josey-Bass.)
Assessment can be a useful tool for providing evidence of quality of a program. Along with student, alumni and employer satisfaction data, assessment of program objectives can lead to informed decision-making about changes to improve student learning.
Assessment is undertaken not only in traditional academic programs, but in institution-wide programs such as general education and first-year experiences and in cocurricular and student services areas. (Cole, J. S., Kennedy, M., & Ben-Avie, M. (2009). The Role of Precollege Data in Assessing and Understanding Student Engagement in College. In R. M. Gonyea, & G. D. Kuh, Using NSSE in Institutional Research (Spring ed., Vol. 141, pp. 55-69). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
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.