Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why do we do assessment?

A.  There are many reasons we participate in assessment. The Academic Assessment Council contends assessment is “The Right Thing to Do,” as stated on the homepage of this site. Why assessment  is the “right thing” varies for different stakeholders. For many faculty assessment is conducted to ensure students are meeting or exceeding stated learning objectives, that our learning goals are truly representative of our programs, and to substantiate the quality of the degrees we offer.  There are external stakeholders that rely on our assessment work for program accreditation, 5-year reviews, and of course institutional accreditation by WASC. The State of California, general public, and parents want to be sure that their investment in higher education is well-spent. Employers want to be assured that students have the skills and abilities associated with our degrees. Bottom line: we conduct on-going assessment because we want to document, ensure, and affirm the excellent learning experienced by our students in the pursuit of their degrees.

Q. How is assessment supported?

A. Since assessment was formalized into a yearly expectation by all programs, the university has supported assessment work in a variety of ways. The campus provided training and workshops in 2005 and  2006; this support has been continued over the years by the AAC, CELT and by individual Colleges. The university also provides financial support for programs in the form of release time for department-based Assessment Facilitators and college-based Assessment Coordinators.  It is important to note that financial support was originally intended as “start-up” support for programs, but the university has continued financial support since 2005. Aside from financial support for faculty release time, assessment can be supported by chairs and faculty working together to build this work into the regular practices of their program and finding creative ways to make assessment as manageable, meaningful, and consistent as possible.

Q. What is the process and documentation expected of my program?

A. It is important to make assessment an explicit part of department culture and to document your efforts and outcomes. Each degree program is expected to have a mission statement, a set of learning goals, a list of student learning outcomes (SLOs), and an alignment matrix and assessment plan. Programs annually report the results of current assessment and recommendations for improvement or follow up if necessary. Departments/programs should be assessing one or more SLOs each year and discussing the results of assessment to improve student learning in the program. This is an iterative process, focused on continuous improvement of teaching and learning. 

Q. To whom do I send assessment reports?

A.  Assessment Facilitators submit annual assessment results to the College Coordinator. The College Coordinator reviews program assessment results and shares these with the College Dean, who in turn reports to the Provost. Assessment results are incorporated into the five-year academic program review and are shared with the CSU Chancellor’s Office at the time of program review. Assessment reports are also to be delivered to the program chair and shared with program faculty. Reports are typically due to College Coordinators on September 30 for work conducted in the previous academic year.

Q. When are these reports due?

A. Reports are typically due September 30 for work conducted in the previous academic year.  The report date was established to allow programs maximum flexibility to plan and conduct assessment work, analysis and improvement discussions anytime during the academic year, with a bit of time in the following year. This also allows for work to be conducted over the summer if the program chooses to do so and the work is properly supported. 

Q. How is all of this assessment work connected to the five-year review?

 Program assessment is an important component of the review process, but it is not the entire process. It is most relevant to CFRs 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 2.2, 2.3, 2.5, 3.3, and 6.2 in the Phase III version of the five-year review process.

Q. Doesn't assessment infringe on academic freedom? Is this a move to take control of the curriculum away from the faculty?

Assessment proceeds from two main motivations: program improvement and accountability.  Faculty are typically much more interested in program improvement than accountability. Accountability is driven by the interests of external stakeholders in the quality of college degrees.  This is especially the case in state universities like ours, where the legislature and public want to ensure that the significant investment in funding the university is being used efficiently and effectively. Regardless of motivation, the assessment process remains in the hands of faculty.  Faculty set the standards of what graduates of their programs should know, be able to do, and value. Faculty measure how well students are performing. Faculty decide what curricular or program changes are indicated in order to improve students' learning. Universities are being held accountable for their performance in terms of student learning. Is that a bad thing? Before you answer that question, think about the education a doctor or lawyer or other professional gets at a university. We all want competent graduates. Assessment helps us know how well we are doing in our principal task: educating students.