Program assessment offers one lens through which we can examine the effectiveness of our educational programs at Santa Clara University. Assessment involves the systematic collection and analysis of information to enable us to determine whether our program goals for student learning are being met. Based on assessment results, we can modify or expand our efforts to facilitate student learning and growth. At times, for example, this includes a shift in pedagogy or in curriculum design.
According to the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE):
- The assessment of student learning begins with educational values. Assessment is not an end in itself but a vehicle for educational improvement. Its effective practice, then, begins with and enacts a vision of the kinds of learning we most value for students and strive to help them achieve.
- Assessment is most effective when it reflects an understanding of learning as multidimensional, integrated, and revealed in performance over time.
- Assessment works best when the programs it seeks to improve have clear, explicitly stated purposes.
- Assessment requires attention to outcomes but also and equally the experiences that lead to those outcomes. Information about outcomes is of high importance; where students "end up" matters greatly. But to improve outcomes, we need to know about student experience along the way—about the curricula, teaching, and kind of student effort that lead to particular outcomes. Assessment can help us understand which students learn best under which conditions; with such knowledge comes the capacity to improve the whole of their learning.
- Assessment works best when it is ongoing not episodic.
- Assessment fosters wider improvement when representatives from across the educational community are involved.
- Assessment makes a difference when it begins with issues of use and illuminates questions that people really care about.
- Assessment is most likely to lead to improvement when it is part of a larger set of conditions that promote change. Assessment alone changes little. Its greatest contribution comes on campuses where the quality of teaching and learning is visibly valued and worked at.
- Through assessment, educators meet responsibilities to students and to the public.