Frequently Asked Questions about OIRA assessments.
Assessment has been defined as, "the systematic collection, review, and use of information about eductational programs undertaken for the purpose of improving student learning and development" (Palomba & Banta, 1999, p. 4). Quality assessment helps ensure that programs are helping to fulfill the mission of Holy Family University. Assessment can let programs (including administrative units) know whether or not they are meeting their objectives in support of the broader university goals and where to make adjustments in the curriculum to better meet those objectives.
Proper assessment planning and execution also helps faculty to understand where students need more support and how best to provide that support. Good assessment practices will ultimately lead to better classroom experiences for both faculty and students.
Program level assessment is necessary beyond the grades students receive for several reasons. The first and most important is that program assessment aims to measure different objectives than those found at the course level. While in a course there is specific subject matter that needs to be learned at the program level objectives may be concerned with general ability to apply knowledge to real world experiences, or ability to articulate arguments and synthesize information from various sources. These objectives while related are typically a different level of analysis.
Grades are also not sufficient measures of program assessment because of factors such as grade inflation and individual school/unit/instructor differences in grading practices. Program assessment allows the university to determine not just if students are passing, but whether objectives are being met in support of the broader mission.
Additionally, program assessment helps the university to meet accreditation standards. While this external force is certainly important, the strongest drive for the university and individuals to want to partake in quality assessment is to strengthen programs so that our graduates can compete and be successful in their chosen field.
Yes! Faculty input is essential for developing program objectives and for identifying appropriate places at which to assess those objectives. Assessment done correctly and transparently will lead to better dialogue across campus and improved communication between students, faculty, and administrators.
The transition to a centralized assessment process at Holy Family will require some considerable upfront work. This work, however, is being supported by the Title III grant initially to ensure the creation of initial assessment plans and the implementation of the process goes smoothly. The introduction of Blackboard Outcomes Assessment (BbOA) will make collecting assessment artifacts little to no additional work for individual faculty members.
The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA) can assist in all aspects of the assessment process. Stop in or contact us at any time for help with assessment issues. There are also a variety of workshops, brown bags, and faculty development opportunities offered on a regular basis. See what’s happening in the coming weeks and months through the Assessment Now newsletter or through the "Upcoming Events" page.
The assessment movement in higher education is decades old and Holy Family has always strived to properly assess programs. Through recommendations from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and a careful self-study process Holy Family has realized the value of implementing a more comprehensive and centralized assessment process.
No. While there will be an annual process for reporting on assessment efforts programs are not required or expected to assess and act on all objectives in a given year. A systematic assessment cycle should be established as part of a program’s assessment plan to ensure that all objectives are not only covered but that sufficient effort can be put toward assessing and improving performance on each objective. In most cases this will mean focusing on a subset of objectives each year. See “Planning for Assessment” for more information.
Programs with external accreditation requirements are encouraged to incorporate external accreditation processes with the internal processes for program assessment. The internal processes are still important as the goal is to ensure that programs are helping to achieve the mission of the university. Programs for which this is an issue can try to set up their assessment cycle to make fulfilling accreditation requirements easier. Contact the OIRA for help with any of these issues.