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University of Connecticut Assessment

Assessment Primer:
Assessment Planning


Questions which assessment helps address:
  • We are spending time and resources trying to achieve student learning – is it working?
  • When we claim to be graduating students with qualities like “critical thinking” or “scientific literacy”, do we have evidence of our claims?
  • We have the impression that our students are weak in areas X – would more systematic research back up this impression and help us understand the weaknesses more thoroughly?
  • When we identify a weakness in our students' learning, how can we best address the problem?
  • How can we improve learning most effectively in a time of tight resources?

(Assessment Clear and Simple by Walvoord 2004)

Successful assessment requires developing meaningful assessment plans
  • Planning may occur at the institutional, division, and department levels
  • Institutional planning may be involved with general education assessment, campus-wide assessment activities, and establishing requirements for unit plans
  • Elements of an assessment plan – should include such things as purpose for assessment, methods that will be used, the timeline for administration, the framework for using the assessment information, and provisions for administering the plan.  Assessment plan outline:
    • Departmental Goals – describe what the department intends to accomplish, how the department’s goals relate to campus mission, and purposes for assessment
    • Learning Objectives – describe what students must know, do, and value
    • Techniques and Target Groups – indicate how you will determine whether learning objectives have been met, including methods, target groups, and any impact on students
    • Time Line – indicate when data will be collected and analyzed, when reports will be available, and when recommendations will be made
    • Provisions for Administration – indicate who has responsibility for seeing the plan is carried out, who will conduct and analyze data, and who will summarize/report results
    • Use of Information – describe provisions for sharing information with internal and external audiences, and for making recommendations and decisions
    • Assessment Evaluation – indicate how the assessment program itself will be evaluated

(Assessment Essentials: planning, implementing, and improving assessment in higher education by Palomba and Banta 1999)

Components of an Assessment Plan
(Assessing Academic Programs in Higher Education by Allen 2004)

Learning Objective How is this objective aligned with the curriculum? How will this objective be assessed? Who will be involved in the assessment? A summary of what was learned about each objective and the impact of these findings could go in this column to provide a written record of the assessment activities.
Objective #1 Entries in this column identify courses and other aspects of the curriculum that help students master each objective.      
Objective #2        

Program or Course Assessment Planning Matrix*
(Assessing Academic Programs in Higher Education by Allen 2004)

Objectives Performance Criteria Implementation Strategy Assessment Methods Timeline Feedback
What should your students know and be able to do? How will you know the objective has been met?
What level of performance meets each objective?
What learning activities will help students meet each objective? What assessment methods will you use to collect data?
How will you interpret and evaluate the data?
When will you collect data? Who needs to know the results? 
How can you improve your program/course and your assessment process?
Objective #1          
Objective #2          

*Modified from Olds, Barbara & Miller, Ron (1998).  “An Assessment Matrix for Evaluating Engineering programs”, Journal of Engineering Education, April p. 175-178.


The Basic, No-Frills Departmental Assessment Plan

(Assessment Clear and Simple by Walvoord 2004)

  1. Learning goals/objectives
  2. Two measures:
    1. One direct measure
      1. Review of senior work by faculty teaching seniors
      2. If students take a licensure or certification exam, this will be added as a second direct measure
    2. One indirect measure
      1. Senior student surveys and/or focus groups asking three questions:
        1. How well did you achieve each of the following departmental learning goals?
          (Use scale such as "extremely well, very well, adequately well, not very well, not at all")
          [List each department goal/objective, with scoring scale for each]
        2. What aspects of your education in this department helped you with your learning, and why were they helpful?
        3. What might the department do differently that would help you learn more effectively, and why would these actions help?
      2. Second choice: Alumni surveys
      3. In some fields, job placement rates will be important
  3. Annual meeting to discuss data and identify action items


Questions to consider when establishing or evaluating an assessment program:

  • Does assessment lead to improvement so that the faculty can fulfill their responsibilities to students and to the public?  Two purposes for assessment: the need to assess for accountability and the need to assess for improvement – they lead to two fundamentally different approaches to assessment.
  • Is assessment part of a larger set of conditions that promote change at the institution? Does it provide feedback to students and the institution?  Assessment should become integrated into existing processes like planning and resource allocation, catalog revision, and program review.
  • Does assessment focus on using data to address questions that people in the program and at the institution really care about?  Focusing on questions such as
    • What do we want to know about our students’ learning?
    • What do we think we already know?
    • How can we verify what we think we know?
    • How will we use the information to get to make changes?
    • allows use of the data for improved learning in our programs.
  • Does assessment flow from the institution’s mission and reflect the faculty’s educational values?  The mission and educational values of the institution should drive the teaching function of the institution.
  • Does the educational program have clear, explicitly stated purposes that can guide assessment in the program?  The foundation for any assessment program is the faculty’s statement of student learning outcomes describing what graduates are expected to know, understand, and be able to do at the end of the academic program – When we are clear about what we intend students to learn, we know what we must assess.
  • Is assessment based on a conceptual framework that explains relationships among teaching, curriculum, learning, and assessment at the institution?  The assessment process works best when faculty have a shared sense of how learning takes place and when their view of learning reflects the learner-centered perspective.
  • Do the faculty feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for assessment?  Faculty must decide upon the intended learning outcomes of the curriculum and the measures that are used to assess them – this assessment data must then be used to make changes that are needed to strengthen and improve the curriculum.  Assessment may be viewed as the beginning of conversations about learning.
  • Do the faculty focus on experiences leading to outcomes as well as on the outcomes themselves?  In the learner-centered paradigm, the curriculum is viewed as the vehicle for helping students reach our intended learning outcomes – assessment results at the program level provide information on whether or not the curriculum has been effective.
  • Is assessment ongoing rather than episodic?  Assessment must become part of standard practices and procedures at the institution and in each program.
  • Is assessment cost-effective and based on data gathered from multiple measures?  No one assessment measure can provide a complete picture of what and how students are learning – both direct and indirect measures should be used.
  • Does assessment support diversity efforts rather than restrict them?  Assessment data help us understand what students are learning, where they are having difficulty, and how we can modify instruction and the curriculum to help them learn better – the process helps populations of non-traditional students.
  • Is the assessment program itself regularly evaluated?  Ongoing evaluation of assessment efforts helps maximize the cost-effectiveness of assessment in that faculty and student efforts are used productively.
  • Does assessment have institution-wide support?  Are representatives from across the educational community involved?  Administrators should play two key roles – that of providing administrative leadership and that of providing educational leadership.

(Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses: shifting the focus from teaching to learning by Huba and Freed 2000)

Matrix for Assessment Planning, Monitoring, or Reporting
(Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses: shifting the focus from teaching to learning by Huba and Freed 2000)
Intended Outcome
= intended learning outcomes of the program
Relevant Experiences
= courses, practica, internships, labs, etc. that the faculty provide to help students reach the learning goal
= measure(s) faculty have identified or developed to assess each learning goal
= summary of results obtained from administering the measures
Changes Based on Results
= list of changes that have been made based on the results
Stakeholders Informed
= stakeholders who have been informed about the process
Architecture students should be aware of the values, behaviors, and traditions of diverse cultures and individuals

Courses 221, 223

Study Abroad semester

External examiners

Senior diploma project review

“ … exceptional strength … a model program in this regard”

Favorable review


Students, alumni



A Sample Assessment Plan for a Single Learning Outcome (3 page  pdf document)