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National Survey on Program Level Assessment Practices

A year ago I blogged a summary of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA’s) survey of chief academic officers and their perceptions about the status of learning outcome assessment at the institutional level. Today they released results of a follow-up survey in a report titled “Down and In: Assessment Practices at the Program Level”.

There are several salient conclusions that come out of the data they collected. First, disciplines with specialized program accreditation (like education, nursing, and business) had more mature assessment practices than those covered only by institutional accreditation. In fact, institutions that had some programs with specialized accreditation actually tended to show more developed assessment methods in departments on campus with no program level accreditation. This suggests that there was a benefit across the campus compared to institutions that rely solely on regional accreditation.

Not surprisingly, a second major finding is that resources are scarce with less than 20% of specialized programs having a full-time staff person assigned to assessment activities. Most campuses rely on volunteer committees or part time resources with course release being another option in some instances. To deal with resource constraints, creative solutions included modest stipends to support faculty in the development of course embedded assessments or common department-wide capstone assignments with corresponding rubrics which could be deployed across all students in a program.

Interestingly, while I had the impression that portfolios have been the most common example of direct performance measurement at the program level, they actually ranked seventh in a list of most frequently used approaches. The leaders in rank order are capstones, rubrics, performance assessment, final projects, local tests, and external exams.

One final point I’d like to highlight was that NILOA called for itself and others to produce more case studies that highlight successful assessment practices. We’ve heard the same thing from our partners at Pearson eCollege and are currently working on developing several examples highlighting best practices in a variety of institution types that we can share. We hope to have these published before the end of the year.

Works Cited
Ewell, P., Paulson, K., & Kinzie, J. (2011). Down and In: Assessment Practices at the Program Level.
National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. Retrieved from

Brian Epp, M.Ed. | Assessment & Analytics Group, Academic Training & Consulting| Pearson eCollege

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