When it comes to assessment and accreditation in the field of education, there are certain terms that are frequently used to describe various processes and concepts. Familiarizing yourself with these terms can help you navigate the assessment and accreditation landscape more effectively. By familiarizing yourself with these commonly used assessment and accreditation terms, you can better understand the processes and discussions surrounding educational quality and improvement.
Alignment involves clarifying the relationship between what students do in their courses and what faculty expect them to learn (Allen, 2004).
The ongoing process of:
- Establishing clear, measurable expected outcomes of student learning
- Ensuring that students have sufficient opportunities to achieve those outcomes
- Systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well student learning matches our expectations
- Using the resulting information to understand and improve student learning (Suskie, 2010)
A classification of levels of intellectual behavior developed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom. Bloom identified three domains (Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor). There are six levels within the cognitive domain, from the simple recall or recognition of facts, as the lowest level, through increasingly more complex and abstract mental levels, to the highest order which is classified as evaluation.
Established minimum standards of skills and knowledge necessary to become eligible for promotion, graduation, certification, or other official acknowledgment of achievement.
Example: Clinical Skills Check-off Form
The Compliance Certification submitted approximately 15 months in advance of an institution’s scheduled reaffirmation, is a document completed by the institution that demonstrates its judgment of the extent of its compliance with each of the Core Requirements, Comprehensive Standards, and Federal Requirements (SACSCOC, 2010).
Course or Program Outcomes
Achieved results or consequences realized as a result of the inputs, activities and outputs of the course or program. These are closely related to outputs but are more consequence-focused.
Example: Program retention rate, graduate rate, etc.
Any assessment activity is done during the learning activity (class, course or program) for the purpose of monitoring and guiding learning while it is still in progress.
Example: An exam given at the end of a lesson or at the end of a major component with results used to give the student and instructor feedback on the mastery of intended learning outcomes to guide future learning activities.
General aims of the program or curriculum. They are the broad, long-range intended outcomes of a program, department, college or university. Goals are used primarily in policymaking and general program planning.
Example: The goal of the QEP is to improve students' problem-solving skills.
Resources. The raw materials used to develop a program or intervention which can include staff, budget, facilities, etc. Input measures relate to the amount, cost, and attributes of resources used to perform an activity, provide a service, produce a product, or operate a program.
Example: Inputs (resources) for the Writing Lab Project include 4 instructors, a computer lab with 20 workstations, and $150,000 supply budget.
Learning outcomes are the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits of mind that students have and take with them when they successfully complete a course or program (Suskie, 2010).
The mission is a holistic vision of the values and philosophy of the organization (Allen, 2004).
Description of skills or knowledge a student will attain through participation in a program, course, or activity. They identify what is expected of the student at the end of instruction. Objectives are intended results or consequences of instruction, curricula, programs, or activities. They specify what is expected and describe what should be assessed.
Example: 45% of students complete the program within 5 years of enrollment based on transcript review.
Products and services. Documentation of work done. Output measures are concerned with the results of the application of the input resources; they can be measured in terms of the amount of output produced and by attributes of that output. Output measures are results that can be counted or measured.
Example: Examples include the number of sessions in the program, the number of students completing the program and the number of hours of instruction delivered.
Quality Enhancement Plan
The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), submitted four to six weeks in advance of the on-site review by the Commission, is a document developed by the institution that (1) includes a process identifying key issues emerging from institutional assessment, (2) focuses on learning outcomes and/or the environment supporting student learning and accomplishing the mission of the institution, (3) demonstrates the institutional capability for the initiation, implementation, and completion of the QEP, (4) includes broad-based involvement of institutional constituencies in the development and proposed implementation of the QEP, and (5) identifies goals and a plan to assess their achievement (SACSCOC, 2010).
Student Learning Outcomes (PSLO)
Description of what the student will master upon completion of a program, course, lesson, or activity. SLO's are stated in behavioral terms, use active verbs, and include specific and observable levels of achievement. Student Learning Outcome statements describe the knowledge, skills, attitudes and/or behaviors of the learner at the end of the learning activity for which there is supporting and assessed evidence.
Outcomes are achieved results or consequences of what was learned, evidence that learning took place. They are behaviors and products generated by students after instruction.
Example: Graduates will achieve passing scores on all sections of the licensure exam.
Any assessment activity is done at the end of the learning process (course or program) to judge the success of that process at its completion.
Example: Compilation of assessment results against the projected results-final report.
*From Jones, B., Henry, D.J. & Newman, T. (2011). The QEP: Dialogue to Design and Beyond. SACS-COC, Orlando, FL. December 3, 2011.