Why and How we do Outcomes Assessment
Who benefits from Outcomes Assessment?
For students, Outcomes Assessment will:
- communicate clear expectations about what’s important in a course or program
- inform them that they will be evaluated in a consistent and transparent way
- reassure them that there is common core content across all sections of a course
- allow them to make better decisions about programs based on outcomes results
For faculty, participating in Outcomes Assessment will:
- help them determine what's working and what's not working in their courses or programs
- facilitate valuable interdisciplinary and intercampus discussions
- provide powerful evidence to justify needed resources to maintain or improve programs
- allow them to tell their story to individuals outside their area (e.g. administrators, politicians, employers, prospective students, transfer institutions)
- provide reassurance that all faculty teaching a particular high demand course agree to address certain core content
For administrators, implementing collegewide Outcomes Assessment will:
- demonstrate an institutional commitment to continually improving the academic programs and services offered by the College
- provide valuable data to support requests for funds from state and local government and private donors
- demonstrate accountability to funding sources
- provide valuable data for academic planning and decision-making
- enable them to inform elected officials, local businesses, and potential donors about the college's impact on our students and our community in a very compelling and convincing way
Finally, systematic Outcomes Assessment is now a requirement for accreditation by all higher education accrediting organizations. In fact, two of Middle States’ fourteen standards of excellence in higher education speak directly to the importance of creating a culture in which institutional effectiveness and student learning are highly valued by the college community.
Why aren’t grades enough?
Unless every instructor teaching a particular course assigns final course grades in exactly the same way (same assignments, same exams, same weights, same grading approach), you cannot be confident that one section’s A is the same as another section’s A. More significantly, final grades are an aggregate assessment of a student’s entire body of work for the course, often including attendance and class participation. Consequently, looking at a distribution of grades will provide little, if any, useful information about the degree to which students are learning those things that instructors deem most important in the course.
Final grades don’t provide
- specific information about students’ performance core learning outcomes
- meaningful data across sections
- objective student data which can be used by a discipline for improvement of student learning
- data on how well students are achieving the general education competencies
What values guide Montgomery College's approach to Outcomes Assessment?
- Faculty are best suited to determine the intended educational outcomes of their academic programs and activities, how to assess these outcomes, and how to use the results for program development and improvement.
- Ultimately, every academic unit should be expected to engage in Outcomes Assessment. Outcomes Assessment should not be performed only in selected academic areas of the College.
- The results of Outcomes Assessment should be used to evaluate the effectiveness of academic programs and activities, and student services, and not the performance of individual faculty or staff.
- Outcomes Assessment should be as simple and manageable as possible. The process cannot become so onerous that it hampers or interferes with the delivery of the educational experience that it attempts to assess and improve.
- Faculty must use the information collected to develop and improve academic programs, that is, they must “close the loop.” If Outcomes Assessment is used primarily as a reporting tool, then this effort will have been deemed a failure.
- Central and campus administrators must provide leadership and accountability to the process.
- Outcomes Assessment must be ongoing and performed on a regular basis within each academic area; it cannot be episodic. In essence, it must become an academic habit.