City College students outside the Health Sciences building
Why do we have to conduct assessment of academic programs? How is assessment different from grades?

Grades are assigned to students based on performance in a course. To outside entities, the content of the course is unknown, therefore, what students learn is unknown. By providing data by learning objectives, instead by courses, interested parties can determine what learning has taken place. Furthermore, the learning objectives are developed for programs, not just courses, thus, the learning outcomes of a program are more explicit with assessment information.

The following example shows the relationship between grades and assessment. (From Nichols, J. O., & Nichols, K. W. (2005). A Road Map For Improvement of Student Learning and Support Services Through Assessment. New York: Agathon Press, Page 94.)

From the perspective of grades, Student 3 is having difficulty with criteria related to writing. However, from an assessment perspective, the students as a group are having the most difficulty with spelling. Grades provide information for individual students and for instructors who help them. Assessment provides information for the instructors to help a group of students with a specific criterion.

What is meant by “closing the loop”?

The “loop” in “closing the loop” is depicted in the assessment cycle. Because assessment is iterative and continuous, the process is described as a cycle of developing an assessment plan, implementing the plan, analyzing the data, and making recommendations for program improvement. The cycle begins again by modifying the assessment plan as necessary, followed by implementation, etc. Closing the loop means that a unit has made a change in a program based on assessment data.

See also: Assessment page | Assessment Cycle | Assessment Resource page