Program Assessment

What is Program Assessment?

The primary purpose of program assessment at DU is to improve the quality of our academic programs based on the evaluation of student learning that transcends the individual course.  As such, it is a cyclic process that begins with the establishment of student learning objectives for the program, the measurement and assessment of student learning as the students move through the program, a determination of the effectiveness of the program based on this assessment and, then finally, using the results as the impetus for changes in pedagogy and/or curriculum as any deficiencies become evident within the program.

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DU Assessment

Follow this link to DU Assessment – the assessment software system for the University of Denver.

Assessment Resources

Discover assessment resources in the academic assessment portfolio community site.

At the University of Denver, all academic units are expected to engage in the assessment of student learning as part of their continuing efforts to enhance the effectiveness of academic programs. The Office of Teaching and Learning, and the Director of Academic Assessment provide support and consultation to academic departments and programs with the goal of helping to improve the quality of student learning at DU.

The Office of Teaching and Learning provides support for program assessment with software (DU Assessment), reporting templates and guides, workshops, and consulting with the Director of Academic Assessment.

Why Assessment?

Assessment of student learning is not new to the academic environment.  The process of evaluating a learning experience by studying what students can demonstrate they have learned is a basic tool for improvement as a teacher. The change which has confronted the faculty (in the past 20 years or so) is a demand for a more systematic assessment process.  Today, assessment refers to a process of formal data collection and regular reporting to the administration. And, although faculty members recognize the value of studying student learning, many are put off by the perceived “top down” nature of current assessment processes.

Despite the obvious external pressures that drive assessment, there is also compelling intrinsic value in developing a systematic program assessment process.   Starting from the premise that the quality of student learning is relevant to decisions regarding curriculum and pedagogy, it follows that the development of a comprehensive (and methodologically sound) evidence base would be a better tool for academic decision-making than would other, less systematic approaches.

The resulting experience for many faculty members is, at best, an ambivalent tension between the inconvenience of administrative assessment requirements, and the recognition that the study of student learning is a central responsibility for educators.   For that reason, it is essential for assessment programs to be constructed in ways that make them both: 1) Manageable –the collection and evaluation of evidence of student learning should not be overly burdensome with respect to faculty workloads; and 2) Meaningful –the evidence collected should be of direct value in helping to improve academic programs.

When an assessment program is constructed in this way, it becomes a useful tool created by the faculty, for the use of the faculty.  In that case, the program is valued less as a means to meet the expectations of accreditors and the public, and valued more as a means to build quality programs and improve student learning.

Recommended Readings

  • Assessment Clear and Simple , by Barbara Walvoord. Walvoord’s guide includes chapters written especially for departments and programs, for those assessing general education, and for institution-wide planners. The appendices also include sample rubrics and a number of examples of departmental goals.
  • Designing Effective Assessment, by Trudy Banta, Elizabeth Jones and Karen Black. This book offers a set of principles for good practice in academic assessment and many examples of those principles in practice. The examples are broken down into categories that offer specific insights for undergraduate programs, graduate programs, general education and more.
  • Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide, by Linda Suskie. Suskie’s book provides a step-by-step guide to academic assessment, including an introduction to assessment, a guide to planning assessment (including suggestions on developing a culture of assessment), examples of assessment tools for many purposes and a discussion of how to translate assessment results into meaningful action.
  • The NPEC Sourcebook on Assessment, The National Postsecondary Education Cooperative put together this highly detailed, comprehensive sourcebook on assessment in 2000. Volume 1 covers the assessment of critical thinking, problem-solving and writing skills (including in-depth discussion of measurement problems, recommended approaches and sample rubrics). Volume 2 supplies several case studies of colleges and universities developing, implementing and adapting in response to assessment programs.
  • A guide to the assessment design process, This is a guide to developing assessments, with an emphasis on rater training and reliability—drawn from A Practical Guide to Alternative Assessment, by Jeffrey L. Herman, Pamela R. Aschbacher and Lynn Winters.

Director of Academic Assessment

The role of the Director of Academic Assessment is to facilitate faculty efforts to assess academic programs (majors, degree programs, etc.). The director designs and facilitates workshops on program assessment, provides consulting support for assessment planning, and contributes to the design and implementation of the assessment reporting process.

For additional information or to schedule a consultation, please contact:

 Director of Academic Assessment
Room 350 Anderson Academic Commons
ext. 1-
© 2014 University of Denver - Office of Teaching & Learning