What is assessment anyway?

Some people believe that assessment is a "dirty word."

We don't.

It is true that the Davis Division of the University of California Academic Senate requires undergraduate programs to engage in direct assessment of student learning. It is also true that our regional accrediting body expects to see results of learning outcomes assessment in its reviews of educational effectiveness. These two truths have led many people to dismiss assessment as a meaningless, check-the-box task with no inherent value.

We see it differently.

We believe that assessment promotes equity, engages our curiosity, and improves our students' learning (and lives) when we do it “right.” We also believe that doing it “right” often means not doing it “perfectly.”

Assessment is about curiosity 

The process of Learning Outcomes Assessment (LOA) empowers us to to ask and answer questions such as, What evidence do we have that our students have learned and are able to enact their learning? How do we confirm that our curricula provide equitable opportunities for students to learning? How can we determine whether our programs effectively develop student capacity to become agentive members of our disciplinary communities as academic or professional colleagues? 

Assessment is about students' learning

“As a matter of integrity, we should ... make sure, through assessment, that every student who completes a learning experience has indeed achieved its learning goals” (Suskie, 2018, p. 158).

The purpose of learning outcomes assessment is to improve student learning. The process of learning outcomes assessment invites inquiry about our goals for student learning, and whether they are measurable, aspirational, and also achievable. Learning outcomes assessment prompts us to examine the alignment between our goals for student learning and opportunities to learn. Learning outcomes assessment yields evidence of student learning with which to inform planning and decision-making. Learning outcomes assessment provides vital lines of evidence for self-studies submitted as part of the Undergraduate Instruction and Program Review process. 

Assessment is a team sport

Responsibility for ensuring the ongoing quality of academic programs rests with our faculty, who are experts in their disciplines and best positioned to articulate the standards of performance for student learning in their degree programs. 

The UC Davis Assessment Team comprises professional assessment staff and faculty assessment champions. Our goal is to foster a culture of curiosity about student learning and build capacity for sustainable outcomes assessment practices which inform decision-making at program, college, and campus levels. Come join us!

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