Assessment of institutional effectiveness is parallel to assessment of student learning and involves four primary steps that serve as a continuous cycle:
- Define clearly articulated institutional and unit-level goals.
- Implement strategies to achieve those goals.
- Assess achievement of the goals.
- Use the results to improve programs and services as well as inform planning and decision-making.
1. Defining Goals
At each level of the institution, goals are developed to identify specific ways in which the mission of the division, department, or program is carried out. In some cases goals are developed in conjunction with more specific objectives indicating how the goal will be achieved. Overall, the goals establish what it is that the faculty or staff of a unit (e.g., department, program) intend to accomplish. Goals that focus on what students should learn are learning goals, not department or program goals, and fall under the realm of assessment of student learning. Using previous assessment results and conclusions can be very informative and helpful when goal setting.
2. Implementing Strategies
While the essential functions and responsibilities of the unit tend to also serve as the strategies through which goals are achieved, it is important to ensure that each goal is intentionally addressed through the roles and responsibilities of the faculty and staff.
3. Assessing Achievement
The methods for assessing goals tend to be more varied than when assessing student learning. In some cases, the needed data is simply part of existing institutional datasets and only require retrieval. In other cases data needs to be actively collected and may fall into any of the categories listed on the overview page. Tools for assessing goals may include surveys, focus groups, activity logs, tracking databases, institutional datasets, checklists, and rubrics. In all cases it is important that the data collected is directly related to the goals being assessed.
4. Using Assessment Information
Assessment is often considered "done" after data collection has ended. In order for assessment to serve its purpose, however, the data collected needs to be reviewed, discussed, and disseminated as appropriate. More importantly, actions that will be taken as a result of the data should be identified and implemented. These changes should then be assessed, leading to continual cycles of assessment and improvement of practices, processes, and policies, a process often called "closing the loop."
Assessment of Institutional Effectiveness and Accreditation
Standard 7 of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)'s accreditation standards is dedicated to the assessment of institutional effectiveness. The four steps above outline what they consider the "planning-assessment" cycle. Further information specific to MSCHE's expectations regarding this standard can be found here.