Step By Step

All academic and non-academic support units should include in assessment plans demographic information and mission statements specific to their program or unit.

Step 1 – Defining Goals and Outcomes

Goals and outcomes should be linked to and supportive of the university’s mission and one or more of the university’s strategic goals. Objectives may be “process oriented” objectives or “outcomes oriented.” Process oriented objectives delineate functions, services or processes that an educational unit wants to improve. “Outcomes oriented” objectives focus on outcomes for the student after having received services by the educational unit or could relate directly to student learning-what a student thinks, knows, feels, or is able to do as a result of an educational experience. Process oriented objectives will often describe the level or volume of the unit’s activities, e.g. the number of students served. An outcomes oriented objective would describe what a student can do after receiving the services of the unit. e.g. complete a resume on-line. In the development of unit objectives, it is important to write objectives that reflect what the faculty and staff value and believe it is important to accomplish.

The number of objectives should be three to five in number. The identification of more than three to five objectives simply becomes too unwieldy to measure and manage. The assessment efforts of the unit and ultimately of the entire university will cease if these efforts are buried under a mountain of paper. As objectives are assessed and results used to improve unit performance, new objectives can be identified and can replace existing ones. It may seem obvious, but is also important in developing a unit assessment plan to “just begin”. At times the desire to develop the “perfect” assessment plan results in the implementation of no assessment activities. Remembering that the overall purpose of assessment is improvement, it is not unreasonable to expect improvement in the plans and assessment activities themselves.

Step 2 – Means of Assessment.

There is no single best way to measure objectives. The methods of assessment chosen should be those that best answer the unit’s questions. Methods of assessment may include but are certainly not limited to: indirect measures such as undergraduate and graduate student surveys, alumni surveys, employer surveys; and direct measures such as tests, portfolios, scoring rubrics, counts or unit activities, response times and the use of external evaluators. Every effort should be made to use at least two different methods of assessment per objective. Assessment methods should be measurable.

Step 3 – Criteria for Success

Criteria for intended objectives need to be set that establish a reasonable level of service improvement given resources and current personnel. The criterion should not be so low as to not show improvement nor so high that it is unattainable given current resources.

Step 4 – Data Collection/Results

The assessment report must identify the methods of assessment and how frequently and from whom the assessment information is obtained. Some assessment methods may be done annually, others may be done less frequently. In addition, some assessment results may be obtained from a sample of students/services while in others cases all students/services are assessed.

Step 5 – Use of the Results to Improve Instructional Programs and Services

The importance of “closing of the feedback loop” can not be over emphasized. It is imperative that the results of assessment be used to inform and improve the functions and services of the academic and non-academic support units. If the results of assessment consistently indicate that the unit needs no improvement, it is suggested that the unit either raise the criterion or look for new objectives. Again, an important purpose of institutional effectiveness planning is program improvement.

Step 6-Major Difficulties

In some instances road blocks and/or various challenges will arise that will keep an unit from accomplishing the intended goal or outcome. It is the responsibilit of faculty and staff to ensure that major challenges are addressed promptly so as to not impede the qualiy of services provided to students.


At the conclusion of the academic and fiscal year, all academic and non-academic units should identify goals for the next year.


RESOURCES: Assessment Plan/Report Templates

Academic Assessment Template

Non-Academic Assessment Template

2019 Academic Assessment Planning Presentation

2019 Non-Academic-Presentation