Enhancing and improving educational practices, processes, and policies as a result
of evidence-based decision-making and change implementation is the purpose of the
assessment process, and is the main crux of the assessment cycle. The documentation
of the process and resulting decision-making is important for being organized, transparent,
A critical component of effective assessment is the planning process. Planning is
important because when it takes place, proper attention is given to all aspects of
the assessment process:
- Appropriate methodology considering the goal or outcome being assessed
- Data analysis needs and the resources available
- Options for sampling
- Use and review of results
- How results will be shared
- How the information will be used for improving teaching and learning or institutional
Assessment planning is an activity that a program or department should undertake at
the beginning of their assessment cycle timeframe, which is usually the academic year.
As such, the planning process should be started by late summer and an assessment plan
finalized by early in the fall semester in order to allow for adequate time to implement
What is an assessment plan?
At the most basic level, an assessment plan is a document (e.g., in Word or Excel)
- Student learning outcomes or department goals to be assessed during that academic
- Direct and indirect assessment methods used to demonstrate the attainment of each
outcome or goal
- Brief explanation of the assessment methods, including the source(s) of data
- Indication of which outcome(s) or goal(s) is/are addressed by each method
- Intervals/timelines at which data is collected and reviewed
- Individual(s) responsible for the collection/review of data
Additional components of an assessment plan may include the mission of the department
or program, curriculum maps aligning outcomes with courses, and a detailed implementation
plan for each method or outcome/goal. There is often an assessment plan template that
is utilized by all departments within a college or division to ensure that all aspects
of the planning process are addressed and submitted in a consistent format to leadership
Once an assessment plan has been implemented and data has been collected, it is time
to further consider the various requirements and other options for reporting, or more
generally, sharing the assessment information. Departments and programs are often
required by leadership to submit an annual report, including a section on assessment.
This information may be part of the annual report itself, or a separate document.
As with assessment plans, an assessment report template is often created to ensure
consistency in reporting among departments or programs within a division or college.
(There are several examples of this at SUNY Fredonia; see College of Arts & Sciences
and the Division of Student Affairs.) Making assessment reports available to stakeholders
(via a website, for example, see the Fredonia Computer & Information Sciences Assessment
web page) is a way to increase transparency of the evidence-based decision-making
What is an assessment report?
An assessment report is essentially an extension of the assessment plan. Sometimes
departments or programs use one document that serves as both the plan and the report.
The majority of the document is completed during the planning process, and once data
has been collected, reviewed, and discussed, the reporting components are then completed.
An assessment report should accomplish the following:
- Outline the student learning or program outcomes or goals assessed during the assessment
- Identify and describe the specific assessment method(s) and tools used to gather evidence
for the outcomes or goals
- Identify the specific source(s) of the data
- Provide brief results of each method and the extent to which the outcome or goal was
- Provide a summary or conclusions regarding the assessment process and results
- Identify how the results will be shared and with whom
- Identify how the assessment data contributes to decision-making and the actions that
will be taken as a result of the information
The assessment plan for the next year should reflect aspects of the assessment report
from the previous year, as assessment is a systematic and continuous cycle and is
the mechanism (or "means" to) for improving educational practices, processes, and
policies (the "end").
In addition to assessment reports, there is a variety of other ways to share assessment
information with different audiences, including websites, brochures, presentations,
and social media. In particular, finding ways to share assessment results with students
contributes to their increased understanding of why they are asked to participate
in assessment and how they benefit from it.