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Programmatic Assessment

Assessment occurs at the course, departmental, college, and institutional levels. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges (SACS), yet assessment practices at the university extend beyond SACS to include many other accreditation agencies and as well as our own practices of assessment.

For information on programmatic assessment and other issues pertaining to the SACS accreditation process, consult:

The “assessment movement” has changed many institutions of higher education as we strive to show the quality of our programs in a visible way to internal and external constituents.  There are many resources to support the assessment work of your programs or in your classroom.

The resources page of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment is a central place to start.

Also, the 2012 report titled Committing to Quality: Assessment and Accountability in Higher Education  is highly recommended (the 16 page report is brief and captures the current national conversation). It is published by the New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability whose board of directors include leaders in many national organizations, such as the American Council for Higher Education, the Teagle Foundation, the AACU, and the APLU.

The assessment cycle graphic

Click to enlarge the graphic


Learning outcome assessment focuses on student learning and brings together two main questions:

  1. What do you want students to be able to know, do, and value when they leave your program?
  2. How do you know your students are learning?

Program assessment has several essential characteristics:

  • It focuses on student learning;
  • It leads to program enhancement;
  • It involves program faculty;
  • It is ongoing.

Student learning outcomes are either specific to the course or to the program. At the course level, instructors usually give tests, projects, and other assignments (summative assessment) that allow them to evaluate aspects of student learning, and make adjustments to their courses. At the program level, the faculty assess evidence of student learning in the program, and use the results to make adjustments to the curriculum and to enhance the program.

The assessment cycle model provides a framework programs can use to consider, in a systematic manner,  how they know their students are learning. This framework focuses on five areas of inquiry: (click on each one below for resources)

  1. LEARNING OUTCOMES: What will your graduates learn and achieve?
  2. CURRICULUM: Where in the curriculum will they learn and achieve what you want them to do?
  3. ASSESSMENT: How and when will students show their learning and achievements? What assessment do you use?
  4. ANALYSIS OF RESULTS: What is your analysis and your conclusion about the results of evaluations?
  5. PROGRAM ENHANCEMENT: How will you use these results to make changes in the curriculum to enhance your program?

For a rubric for programmatic assessment plans and a template document, visit the Provost’s SACS reaccreditation page.

Additional resources are available on UT’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment’s website.

The University of Maryland shares its information on Undergraduate outcomes here.

Resources for assessment in graduate programs are available here.

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