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Froslid Jones, Karen
Assistant Provost, Institutional Research and Assessment

Leonard, Room 1st floor

Institutional Rsch / Assessmt 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20016-8059 United States

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Program Assessment Guidelines

Each program or major at American University is expected to develop and implement a comprehensive assessment plan. This plan includes:

  • The articulation of expected learning outcomes for the program/major.
  • Clear methods for assessing the degree to which learning objectives are being met.
  • Standards for determining the degree to which goals are met.
  • A summary of assessment activities and results.
  • Evidence that results are used to improve and/or market programs. 
  • A timeline for implementing a complete assessment cycle.

The following guidelines should be used in the development of the plan:

Definition of program/major. Departments can decide exactly how their programs or majors are defined. In most cases, departments will develop assessment plans for each major. There may be cases, however, where it is more helpful to develop plans at the level of “concentrations” rather than major. Assessments should inform program improvement, and units should decide how they can best set up plans to facilitate such improvement.

Assessment methods. Ideally, programs are expected to use a variety of assessment methods, including at least one direct measure of assessment for each learning outcome.

Plans should be simple and do-able. Emphasis is on creating plans that can be implemented given the usual constraints of faculty availability and funding. A reasonable plan is one in which a full cycle of assessment can be completed in 3-5 years.

Plans should be useful. The ideal plan is one which helps the department focus on issues that are of critical importance to it. Units who find that the assessment process is not useful are strongly encouraged to work with the Learning Outcomes and Assessment Team and CTE to revise the plan to better meet their needs.

Web Access. Learning outcomes and plans for each program are posted on a website open to the public. An update on each assessment plan’s implementation is posted on a password-protected website.

Communication. In order for the plan to be useful to students, units are encouraged to find ways (in addition to the official website) to communicate the learning objectives of their program to prospective and current students.

Helpful Resources

Use the Assessment Rubric (PDF) to gauge your progress on developing and implementing an effective assessment plan.

Use this Assessment Report Template (PDF) to organize your assessment results.

The report instructions outlined on the TracDat Guidelines (PDF) explain using the template to display your assessment plan.

Assessing student learning and institutional effectiveness (PDF), describes Middle States expectations for effective assessment. We suggest you focus on Standard V.

Assessment Resources at American University

This list of resources (PDF) details physical and electronic texts available at the American University library and through the Washington Consortium.