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Student Academic Assessment at Western Illinois University

Assessing Student Learning

Higher Learning Commission Mark of Affiliation

Western Illinois University is accredited by the Higher Learning Association of the North Central Association. A primary component of achieving accreditation is evidence of an active program of assessment of student learning within all academic programs. The process of demonstrating student achievement in each undergraduate major and graduate program at Western Illinois University begins with the establishment, measurement and use of results for learning outcomes by faculty within each program. Reports of this work are provided to academic deans and the provost’s office, and are shared with faculty governance groups.

Higher Learning Commission Endorses Guidelines on Assessment

The Higher Learning Commission has endorsed guidelines, Committing to Quality: Guidelines for Assessment and Accountability in Higher Education, published by the New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability in 2012.  The guidelines help colleges and universities in improving the quality of a college degree by asking them to set clear goals for student achievement, regularly gather and use evidence that measures performance against those goals, report evidence of student learning, and continuously work to improve results.

Guidelines for Assessment: Assessment of Student Learning Procedures

  • Assessment measures are to be clearly described: i.e. how is the measure conducted? For example, does a survey conducted of students post-internship provide evidence of student learning (direct), or provide insight into whether a student feels they learned a particular skill (indirect)?

  • Course-embedded assessment is an excellent example of a direct measure of assessment if evaluation consists of clear measurement of specific learning outcomes (please specify which outcomes and in what way they are measured).

  • The development of assessment measures begins with and is continually informed by the identified learning outcomes; in this way, the learning outcomes become the basis for a solid assessment plan.
    • It is important to clarify how the measure, whether direct of indirect, focuses on the stated learning outcomes.
    • Grades or grade point averages are not appropriate measurements as they are not true indicators focused measurement.
  • Review of specific courses, or more extensive program review, is not a measure of either direct or indirect assessment, although it may be a very useful result of assessment of student learning.