During their years at Iowa State University, undergraduate students are expected to improve their general intellectual skills, to attain proficiency in one or more academic disciplines of their choice, and to develop interpersonal and leadership skills needed for productive careers and effective citizenship. Graduate students are expected to develop professional, research, and scholarship skills. The faculty is responsible for designing curricula and educational experiences to achieve these goals and for assessing how well the goals are attained. Instruction varies from structured classroom, studio and laboratory experiences to one-to-one contacts between individual faculty members and students, and it may include extra-curricular programs of various types.
To determine the effectiveness of these educational experiences, two related questions must be answered: To what degree have students attained desired educational goals? And, how effective have various programs and experiences been in facilitating the learning and development of students? These are fundamental questions of student outcomes assessment. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of programs and to develop methods for improving learning and instruction, evidence must be collected about the degree to which the desired outcomes of the educational process have been attained. This process is effective when the assessment results are used to improve subsequent learning.
Principles of Good Practice
Iowa State University endorses the philosophy of outcomes assessment stated in the National Association of State University and Land Grant Colleges' (NASULGC) "Statement of Principles on Student Outcomes Assessment" and the "Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning" developed by the American Association of Higher Education. The seven NASULGC principles state that programs for student outcomes assessment should:
- focus primarily on the effectiveness of academic programs and the improvement of student learning and performance;
- be developed in collaboration with the faculty;
- be appropriate to the particular mission and goals of the institution;
- use multiple methods of assessment;
- be fiscally conservative and not impose costly programs on institutions;
- be linked to strategic planning and program review processes within the institution.
AAHE's principles of good practice are as follows:
- The assessment of student learning begins with educational values
- Assessment is most effective when it reflects an understanding of learning as multidimensional, integrated, and revealed in performance over time.
- Assessment works best when the programs it seeks to improve have clear, explicitly stated purposes.
- Assessment requires attention to outcomes but also and equally to the experiences that lead to those outcomes.
- Assessment works best when it is ongoing, not episodic.
- Assessment fosters wider improvement when representatives from across the educational community are involved.
- Assessment makes a difference when it begins with issues of use and illuminates questions people really care about.
- Assessment is most likely to lead to improvement shen it is part of a larger set of conditions that promote change.
- Through assessment, educators meet responsibilities to students and to the public.
All outcomes assessment procedures developed within the university must be consistent with these guidelines.
Within the framework of these NASULGC guidelines and the stated mission of the university, Iowa State University has adopted the following guidelines regarding assessment of the outcomes of its educational programs.
- The primary focuses of the assessment process will be on ascertaining the effectiveness of academic programs and instruction and on developing methods to improve educational outcomes. Although data may be collected from individual students, the purpose of program assessment will not be to certify the competence or skills of particular students. The outcomes of extra-curricular activities will be assessed to the degree that they relate to academic goals.
- The results of student outcomes assessment will be an integral part of the program review and strategic planning processes.
- At the undergraduate level, responsibility for the assessment of attainment of general educational goals resides with the college administration. Assessment in this area may take place at the college level or at the department or program level, as appropriate.
- Assessment of the outcomes of academic programs that lead to a degree will be conducted at the department or program level for both undergraduate and graduate programs. Assessments should use methods and procedures appropriate to the nature of the discipline and the goals of the program.
- Use of multiple methods of assessment (both direct and indirect measures of learning) and multiple evaluators (for example, faculty, current students, former students, employers) is encouraged Existing sources of information should be used whenever appropriate and feasible. Because the focus of assessment is on improving educational outcomes, not every student needs to be assessed by every method. The assessment process, however, should include representative samples of students who are in the program and be conducted on a regular basis.
- Summaries of the results of the assessments will be shared with the faculty, administration, students, and other interested constituencies.
- Each academic program or department will develop written procedures that specify the desired educational outcomes of the program, the procedures that will be used to measure attainment of these outcomes, and how the results of the assessment will be used for continuous improvement of learning and instruction. Assessments should include outcome measures specific to the program and, at the undergraduate level, measures of those general educational goals that are expected to be attained by all graduates.
- At the time of academic program review, assessment reports will be submitted by the department or other administering unit to the appropriate college dean for review and then forwarded to the provost.
- Each college will develop written procedures that specify the educational goals of the college, the procedures that will be used to measure attainment of these goals, and how the results of the assessment will be used to improve learning and instruction.
- Each college will submit an annual summary report to the Provost.
*Based on the Policies and Procedures for Student Outcomes Assessment approved by the Faculty Senate (May 7, 1991) and subsequently updated by the Student Outcomes Assessment Committee (April 23, 1996)