Using Assessment Data
The most important part of the assessment process is using the results to improve student learning. For this reason, the primary audience for assessment data is the program or department itself. Assessment results are first shared with program faculty so they can decide on an appropriate response. Faculty should discuss the results of assessment, and document how they interpret and respond to it.
Programs use assessment data to:
- inform curricular changes
- inform pedagogical changes or professional development initiatives
- inform structural or policy changes for the program
- improve advising
- identify and address unmet student needs
- improve or adjust the assessment plan itself
- create special assessment projects to investigate questions raised by the data
Interpreting Assessment Data
Only faculty can fully understand and make use of their assessment results. For this reason, alongside assessment data, faculty should also document how they interpret and respond to the results. Understanding assessment results usually work best when they are considered in context, accounting for faculty experience, the results of other, indirect measures such as surveys or focus groups, and the particular circumstances of the program or course.
Benchmarks and Targets
Interpreting assessment data is easier using benchmarks and targets. Benchmarks are the minimum acceptable (passing) score or result. The target is the percentage of students that should meet a benchmark for the program to consider itself succeeding in its educational mission (e.g., “90% of students should score 3 or higher on the rubric”). Most programs will want to establish and report on additional benchmarks and targets for higher levels of performance (e.g., “50% should score a 4 or higher, while at least 20% will earn the highest score of 5”). This allows for more nuanced evaluation of potential areas of improvement. Program faculty should determine benchmarks and targets based on their own judgement, appropriate national standards, or comparison with data from previous years.
If the assessment results suggest that some changes may be needed, either at the program level or at the course level, the department’s plan for enacting those changes should be documented. This comes in the form of an action plan, a formalized statement of how faculty are responding to assessment data to make changes, and how they plan to follow up to ensure that those changes are successful.
Programs should also include other kinds of evidence, such as meeting minutes where assessment data was discussed, flyers or other documentation for resulting professional development work, or other evidence of ways that a program has responded to their assessment findings.