Getting Started with Assessment

If your unit has never conducted a formal assessment, the task can seem daunting. Listed below are steps you can follow to give you some direction. Keep in mind that assessment is a tool used to collect information that will allow you to make informed decisions that bring about positive changes. The end goal is not the assessment itself; the goal is positive change.

Also keep in mind that assessment is a trial-and-error endeavor. Your methods will change based on your experiences - you will enhance certain aspects that are effective, change some aspects that don't work as expected, and drop elements that are ineffective. Assessment is only effective when it is carried out; don't spend an inordinate amount of time on the planning stages, at the expense of implementation. You can always go back and make changes as necessary. If you need help with any aspect of your assessment projects don't hesitate to contact any of the members of the University Assessment Committee (UAC).

The Resources page contains useful how-to articles on such things as how to compose student learning outcomes statements, how much data to use, and how to apply what you're currently doing to your new assessment plan. Listed below are steps you can follow to help you get started.

Steps to get started:

  1. Meet with your colleagues in the unit. Decide on objectives for your unit and measures that can be used to evaluate attainment of those goals. What is it you want to accomplish? How will you know you have accomplished it? Make sure your objectives are realistic, useful, and measurable. The number of objectives you define will depend on your mission. Some units may only have one or two objectives, while others may have a dozen. Some units have to meet objectives defined by outside influences, such as accrediting boards. Some units will have objectives defined by industry standards. Some units will have unique objectives specific to UD. Some units will have a combination of all of these.

  2. Decide on a schedule of when to evaluate each objective. Some objectives will have more pressing needs than others. Choose a schedule that is realistic and efficient. We recommend that you do not assess all objectives every year, unless it makes sense to do so. The goal of assessment is to bring about positive changes. Usually that means making a change and allowing time for that change to take effect. A proposed assessment schedule is listed in the University Assessment Plan.

  3. Decide on methods of measurements to use when evaluating the attainment of each objective. Sometimes you can use one tool to measure more than one objective. For example, when evaluating portfolios of student work evaluators can rate student achievement on multiple objectives.

  4. If you need help defining objectives or brainstorming ideas for measurements you can peruse the assessment resources page, or you can contact Elise Bernal (ebernal1 [at], institutional researcher for academics, for assistance. You can also contact any member of the UAC.

  5. Write an assessment plan for your unit that addresses your mission, objectives, measurements, and assessment schedule. Read through some sample assessment plans to get ideas. The assessment plan must contain each of the elements listed on the web page for unit assessment plans.

  6. Collect data for the first objective(s) you have decided to study. Meet with your colleagues to discuss the results and possible actions to take. Write a report of the results of the assessment, including measurements used and data analyses. Write a summary of actions taken as a result of the assessment using the summary template.  Submit the summary to the UAC.

  7. The following year measure the next objective(s) that you and your colleagues have decided to address. Collect data, discuss the results, decide on actions to take, write a full report to keep within the unit, then write a short summary of actions taken as a result of the assessment and submit the summary to the UAC. Assessment is a process that is conducted each year. Make it an integral component of your unit's operations.

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Elise Bernal

ebernal1 [at]