The George Washington University . . . dedicates itself to furthering human well-being…by fostering excellence in teaching… [and by offering] outstanding learning experiences for full-time and part-time students in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs in Washington, DC, the nation, and abroad. (Mission Statement)

Good teaching and student learning go hand-in-hand. It is through the assessment of student learning and achievement that GW is able to demonstrate that its students have accomplished educational goals consistent with their program of study, their degree level, and the institution’s mission, and has met the appropriate expectations of institutions of higher learning. 

The process of assessment allows faculty to record progress in student learning enabling them to communicate students’ successes and accomplishments to each other, their students, our alumni, and other important stakeholders.

While support for assessment may be found throughout the University, the Office of Academic Planning and Assessment, headed by Associate Provost Cheryl Beil,  coordinates and supports assessment efforts in all units on campus. These include: 

  • Communicating expectations for assessment to academic deans, directors, and department chairs;
  • Providing support to faculty in the development of assessment plans and reports;
  • Identifying and providing assessment resources and developing effective assessment structures and processes at the program, college, and university level; and
  • Reviewing reports that document the assessment cycle within majors/programs and providing constructive feedback to ensure that all units meet appropriate expectations for assessment.

GW is committed to institutional self-examination and improvement. A key part of this self-examination involves assessing how well we are educating our students. 

Assessment of student learning is the systematic gathering of information about student learning, using the time, resources, and expertise available, in order to improve the learning.

Its purpose is to provide credible evidence that students are progressing with the learning goals necessary to achieve mastery in programs and courses. It focuses on the gathering and interpretation of data to determine to what degree outcomes are being met. It provides a means for which to design specific action plans to sustain and improve student learning as well.

Assessment of student learning should answer two important questions: 

  • What skills and knowledge taught in the program or course do you expect students to know and be able to do by the end of the program or course and to retain several years after they graduate?
  • What evidence do you have (or need) that will convince you that students have achieved what you set out for them to learn (learning goals)?

It should be undertaken with a clear understanding of what you or your department want to accomplish through the assessment activities--beyond fulfilling accreditation and school requirements. Assessment should be used to improve educational programs, increase student learning, review curriculum, bring problems to the floor, and demonstrate the value of a program. Its intent is to provide useful feedback about what and how well your students are learning and how the learning can be improved.

 

All active degree-granting programs are expected to assess at least one component of their programs’ learning outcomes annually. These assessments feed into the academic program reviews, typically completed every five to seven years or, if relevant, are included in the systematic evaluations of their curriculum that is a part of their professional accreditation self-studies. All undergraduate courses approved as meeting the university general education requirement must provide assessment of these courses every three years. The main component of these assessments is the “action plan,” demonstrating how the evidence is being used to strengthen the quality of student learning.

The Office of Academic Planning and Assessment coordinates these efforts and provides support to faculty, departments, and programs in the development of assessment plans and reports. We can assist faculty members in evaluating the effectiveness of their assessments, help departments in mapping and assessing their curriculum, and work with other units to design assessments that measure the strength of their programs.   

Resources:

Assessment of Student Learning GW Instructional Core

Angelo, T. and Cross, P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers,. Second edition. San Francisco, CA:Jossey-Bass.

 

GW is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Accreditation is an expression of confidence that the institution meets and is in compliance with its seven Standards of Excellence and Requirement of Affiliation. Only accredited colleges and universities are eligible to receive Title IV [federal financial aid funding] for its students. 

Standard V of the Middle States standards relates to Educational Effectiveness Assessment. It states that an accredited institution is expected to demonstrate that its “students have accomplished education goals consistent with their program of study, degree level, the institution’s mission, and appropriate expectations for institutions of higher education.” The criteria for this Standard include the following attributes or activities:

  1. Clearly stated educational goals at the institution and degree/program levels;
  2. Organized and systematic assessments, conducted by faculty and/or appropriate professions;
  3. Consideration and use of assessment results for the improvement of educational effectiveness; and
  4. Periodic assessment of the effectiveness of assessment processes.