Some people believe that assessment is a "dirty word."
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).
Assessment is about curiosity
Assessing student learning outcomes (SLO) engages us in asking 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 improving 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 student 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 direct 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 courses and degree programs. The UC Davis Assessment Team provides coaching and expert guidance for faculty-initiated inquiry about equity-centered assessment of student learning.
Together with campus assessment champions, we foster a culture of curiosity about student learning by building capacity for sustainable outcomes assessment practices which improve student learning and support evidence-informed decision-making.