FAQ

Why is Syracuse University engaging in assessment?
What is the difference between assessment and evaluation?
What are the benefits of assessment?
Why should I engage in assessment?
How will assessment information be used?
Will assessment results be used for individual faculty/staff evaluation?
Is assessment about finding flaws in the work of the departments/units?
When should we assess?
What is the assessment progress report?
How should student learning outcomes be assessed in an academic program?
When assessing student learning outcomes, why aren’t course grades enough?
Are course evaluations useful for student learning outcomes assessment?
Do we need student consent for assessing their work as part of student learning outcomes assessment?
What resources does Syracuse University have for supporting assessment?
Can the Assessment Working Team do program assessment for us?


Why is Syracuse University engaging in assessment?

Assessment is a strategic process that is part of our continual improvement. Assessment allows for evidence-based decisions about curriculum and pedagogy, programs and services, and student support. In addition, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education considers ongoing assessment a cornerstone of our accreditation.

As part of the institution-wide assessment effort, all academic programs, co-curricular programs, and functional areas will develop and implement assessment and action plans. Additionally, a curriculum map, outlining how student learning outcomes are addressed throughout an academic program’s curriculum, will be created. A proposed academic program will be required to prepare an assessment and action plans before it will be considered for approval.


What is the difference between assessment and evaluation?

Assessment and evaluation use similar methods but are used for different purposes. Evaluation is a systematic process for determining “merit, worth, value or significance” (American Evaluation Association, 2014). Assessment processes are designed specifically to improve programs and services. Both terms are relevant with regard to the culture of assessment at Syracuse University. Assessment processes and outcomes at Syracuse University are intended as a structure for planning and developing improvement on a continued and incremental basis.


What are the benefits of assessment?

Assessment provides information so that academic departments, co-curricular programs, and functional areas can make informed decisions regarding changes. Assessment facilitates discussion between faculty and staff, within and across disciplines, about goals, collecting and sharing detailed feedback with students, and establishing a clear and effective bigger picture for individual programs and services. Assessment provides results that strengthen arguments for increased funding and resources for departments, programs, and units producing valued outcomes. Assessment informs professional development for faculty and staff, as well as changes to policies, resources, and institutional development.

For more information, please refer to:

  • Suskie, L. A. (2009). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
  • Walvoord, B. E. (2010). Assessment clear and simple: A practical guide for institutions, departments, and general education (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass


Why should I engage in assessment?

Assessment information provides means for faculty and staff to become more reflective in their practice, and ultimately to improve. The process of assessment provides a structure for setting goals and outcomes/objectives, monitoring progress, and making improvements to programs and services. Each faculty and staff member plays a vital role in contributing to the success of the process.


How will assessment information be used?

Assessment information will be gathered and used by faculty and staff to identify action areas and guide decision-making. Assessment is a reflective process. Results are intended to provide feedback for continuous improvement of academic programs, co-curricular programs, and functional areas. Results will not be used to evaluate individual students, faculty, or staff.


Will assessment results be used for individual faculty/staff evaluation?

Assessment of student learning outcomes, programs, and/or services is in no way tied to faculty/staff performance evaluation. Assessment should not be used as an evaluation of an individual faculty or staff member.


Is assessment about finding flaws in the work of departments/units?

No. Assessment is about determining what is working and not working. If something is not working well or satisfactory in the academic program, co-curricular program, or functional area and it is evidenced in the assessment results, it means that actions should be taken to ensure successful student learning or increased performance in the future.


When should we assess?

To effectively improve the quality of programs and services, it is essential that assessment be ongoing. Some programs/units plan to assess all of their outcomes/objectives each year, while others will assess one or two each year over a four-year cycle. It is important to sustain a well-designed and manageable assessment plan and process to inform decision-making on an ongoing basis.


What is the assessment progress report?

Annually, an assessment progress report is requested for each academic program, co-curricular program, and functional area. The progress report:

  • documents assessment efforts for most recent academic year (or fiscal year for functional areas)
  • identifies outcomes/objectives that will be assessed in the upcoming year
  • provides an opportunity to identify assessment topics with which your unit/program would like assistance

The current progress reporting windows are as follows:


How should student leaning outcomes be assessed in an academic program?

Direct measures should be the primary means of demonstrating that student learning outcomes have been achieved. Direct assessment of student outcomes can be examined using embedded course assignments, capstone projects, portfolios, field experiences, performances, theses, dissertations, etc. If an academic program uses published exams, such as exams for licensure or certification, as a requirement for completion of the program, the exam results can be used as a direct measure.

Indirect measures operate best as a support to the information gathered through direct measures. Alone, they are not sufficient to demonstrate the achievement of student learning outcomes. Indirect information is often gathered through surveys, interviews, and focus groups. It reflects the opinions and perceptions about a student learning outcome. Indirect measures can also include course grades and grade distributions, retention and graduation rates, and placement rates.


When assessing student learning outcomes, why aren’t course grades enough?

A course grade may include aspects that are not necessarily related to student learning in the course, such as attendance. While attendance may impact student learning, it is not directly related to what the student learned. Additionally, a course grade often reflects progress toward many learning outcomes and is a compilation of the student progress toward all of these outcomes. Course grades can be useful as an indirect measure of student learning if they are primarily based on student work related to the learning outcome, such as exams, papers, and presentations.


Are course evaluations useful for student learning outcomes assessment?

Yes and no. Responses to course evaluations can be used as an indirect measure (i.e., in support of the direct measures of student work) if students are asked to rate their knowledge and skills and reflect on what they have learned in the course. Student perceptions can be an important contribution to the assessment process.


Do we need student consent for assessing their work as part of student learning outcomes assessment?

No. Assessment of student learning outcomes is conducted at the program level.


What resources does Syracuse University have for supporting assessment?

The Assessment Working Team in the Associate Provost Office for Academic Programs is available for consultation and can work with departments and units to develop and implement assessment and action plans. Check the Contact Us section of the website and choose the most way for you to get support. Moreover, this website includes internal and external resources on assessment and institutional effectiveness.


Can the Assessment Working Team do assessment for us?

No, the role of the Assessment Working Team is to provide support to the academic programs, departments, and units through workshopsconsultations, useful resources. It is in the interest of each academic program, department, or unit to conduct their own assessment and use the results as a way to improve student learning, processes, or services.