Developing an Assessment Plan
Just as an effective research program grows from a carefully thought out research plan, an effective assessment process begins with effective planning. What is your program trying to achieve, and how will you know if it is successful? What data do you need to collect to measure your success? How will you collect those data?
A SWOT analysis is a tool that originated in the business world but is useful for any kind of strategic planning. It's a relatively quick way to look at your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Although it is not a substitute for an in-depth analysis, it can set the stage for one.
Logic models are conceptual models of how a program works. A well-developed logic model articulates, step by step, how a proposed program will achieve its goals. Developing a logic model is an excellent way to check that your program has a strong design: that is, that the program is likely to achieve its goals. Having a logic model makes program assessment straightforward.
Just as we need to assess our teaching to know what our students are learning, we need to assess our programs to know whether our programs are achieving our goals. This presentation, by Cathy Manduca and Ellen Iverson, was given at the January 2007 workshop on the Role of Departments in Preparing Future Geoscience Professionals. It demonstrates, via example, how you can apply your well-honed geoscience research skills to the process of program assessment.
Geoscience Program Assessment Planning Documents
We have collections of mission or vision statements, student learning goals or outcomes statements, and other program assessment planning documents, including institutional guidelines for reviews, assessment plans, and more, contributed by a broad spectrum of geoscience departments. While each department is unique and you will need to develop your own individualized plans, this collection may help you and your department to generate ideas.
The University of Texas at Austin has a website of Instructional Assessment Resources, including a comprehensive set of pages on evaluating programs. From planning your evaluation through collecting and reporting your data, this site offers step-by-step suggestions, worksheets, and examples.
References and Additional Readings
- The Colorado School of Mines Assessment Resource Page includes a generalizable assessment matrix designed to help engineering faculty develop comprehensive program assessment plans for their departments. There are links to completed assessment matrices from various departments on the main page.
- Schneider, Give Students a Compass: Can General Education Rise to the Challenge?
This posting, from the Tomorrow's Professor Mailing List, describes the American Association of Colleges and Universities' "Give Students a Compass" project. This project is an experiment in mapping expected student learning outcomes, purposefully deploying "high-impact" educational practices that help students achieve the intended outcomes, and adopting educationally meaningful assessment strategies for general education. Making general education "work" for underserved students is a strong and sustained focus of the Compass project.
- Wergin, Jon F., 2002. Departments that Work: Building and Sustaining Cultures of Excellence in Academic Programs
This book focuses on how academic programs can make evaluation more useful and critical reflection more likely.