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Outcomes Assessment

"I firmly believe that without effective assessment one is piloting the ship blindfolded." —Dinko Počanić, Professor and Associate Dean for Graduate Academic Programs; Professor and Chair (2005-2010), Department of Physics, University of Virginia

Whether you manage a course or an academic or service program, you rely on good information. Assessment—the systematic process of gathering, analyzing, and interpreting data on student learning or program outcomes—is a tool for acquiring that information.

The generic assessment process is straightforward—identify learning or program outcomes; ensure that your course or program provides the learning experiences that make those outcomes possible; collect and analyze data; interpret and apply the results to improve your course or program. This process is fully adaptable to individual courses, projects, or programs.

By providing high quality information on students’ learning and experiences, assessment offers the means to maintain, improve, promote and showcase the student learning experience.

Beyond its inherent merits, assessment is a required activity of the university. Organizations that accredit the university (e.g., Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges), that accredit specific programs (e.g., in engineering), and governmental agencies that monitor higher education (e.g., State Council of Higher Education for Virginia) require regular reports on assessments.

The Office of Institutional Assessment and Studies' (IAS) goal is to support and conduct meaningful, useful, and feasible assessment to foster the University's unique learning and research environment. To fulfill this goal, IAS:

  • Provides relevant training and feedback on assessment methods and measures
  • Designs practical methods of measurement and evaluation
  • Administers the University's general education and core competency assessments to help faculty and administrators improve student learning and development
  • Supports the development and implementation of program assessment plans that define, measure, and evaluate student learning goals and outcomes
  • Facilitates pertinent student survey results for use by academic programs
  • Facilitates required assessment reporting

UVa Assessment Model

  • Purpose: Assessment provides information useful for understanding and improving student learning and programs. While compliance with accreditation reporting requirements is essential, the primary goal of assessment is to improve student learning.
  • Focus: The focus of assessment is the program or curriculum, not individual instructors.
  • Ownership: Faculty and/or program administrators are fully involved in all aspects from definition of the outcomes, data to be collected, analysis and interpretation, and application of results.
  • Feasibility: Where possible, assessments are integrated into what administrators, faculty and students already do, thereby minimizing the burden on faculty and students.
  • Process: Assessment is an iterative, ongoing process: each assessment builds on previous knowledge gained.
  • Compliance: Reports on assessments conducted in and by programs provide evidence for compliance with accreditation requirements.