Purpose and Principles of Assessment

(Statement by the Academic Learning Outcomes Assessment Committee, May 2009)

Assessment can serve many purposes. These include examining Duquesne's academic programs and the role curriculum, pedagogy, and program structure play in student learning. Assessment findings are useful for

  • maintaining high quality programs that are consistent with the University's mission
  • highlighting program and University strengths
  • identifying areas for strategic change or improvement.

What we learn through assessment helps the institution determine how best to support needed changes. Assessment enables us to evaluate the competence of graduates in terms of both the program's goals and those of the core curriculum and University mission. Ultimately, the purpose of assessment is to promote student learning and development.

The process of outcomes assessment is guided by the following principles:

  1. Responsibility and expertise for assessment reside with the faculty in each department or program. Faculty together determine the appropriate assessment plan, and several are involved in implementing the plan.
  2. Assessment of student learning flows from the learning goals faculty establish for each program of study. These goals are written in terms of what students are expected to know, be able to do, and value.
  3. These learning goals and assessment pertain to all learning environments, including classroom, distance learning, clinical, laboratory, practicum, and service-learning experiences.
  4. Assessment methods (i.e., ways of gathering information about student learning) are realistic, manageable, and meaningful within the culture of the particular academic program, department or school. They are informed by the standards relevant to the discipline such as those established by national associations.
  5. The usual learning activities in which students engage often provide an appropriate and feasible source of assessment information.
  6. The results of assessment are interpreted, communicated, and used constructively to promote future program evaluation and continuous improvement.
  7. Faculty regularly reflect upon and improve the assessment process itself.
  8. Assessment at the course and program levels is aligned with institutional goals for student learning.