Academic Program Assessment

Pursuant to the Faculty Handbook, Sect. 10.7.2, and Standard 4B of the Higher Learning Commission’s accreditation standards, all academic programs must be involved in a cycle of continuous program improvement. An effective outcomes assessment and evaluation process is a critical component of a continuous improvement process.

Program level assessment plays a critical role in the learning improvement process as it allows faculty to determine the extent to which students in an academic program are achieving the program's student learning outcomes. Assessment plans establish a process in which student progress towards achieving program learning outcomes are regularly measured and evaluated. Most importantly, the ongoing collection of assessment data enables faculty to fine tune teaching practices, course materials, and curricula to improve student learning. In addition, the presence of a plan will help ensure that a department has the necessary data collection processes in place to complete the self-study process.

Effective program assessment plans should contain these elements:

  1. Program learning outcomes that specify what students should know and be able to do upon graduation.
  2. A curriculum map that shows where in the curriculum students will attain the knowledge, skills, and abilities to achieve the outcomes.
  3. A data collection plan that specifies which evidence will be collected and reviewed and when that evidence will be collected and evaluated. At least one direct method of assessment should be included for each of the program's student learning outcomes.
  4. A statement outlining how the department will use the data to facilitate learning improvement.

Suggested Resources:

Bresciani, M.J. (2006). Outcomes-based academic co-curricular program review. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing

Eggleston, T. (2020, July). Program review and assessment for continuous improvement: Asking the right questions. (Occasional Paper No. 48). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.

Fulcher, K. H., *Good, M. R., *Coleman, C. M., & *Smith, K. L. (2014, December). A simple model for learning improvement: Weigh pig, feed pig, weigh pig. (NILOA Occasional Paper). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.  

George Kuh, et al. (2015). Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher Education (Jossey-Bass).

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. (2018, March). Mapping learning: A toolkit of resources. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).

Linda Suskie. (2018). Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide. 3rd Edition (John Wiley & Sons).

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) can assist faculty with resources on developing measurable course objectives connected to course outcomes and assessment strategies. For assistance in developing program assessment plans, contact Shawn Boyne, Director of Academic Quality and Undergraduate Education.

Mandated Continuous Improvement Reporting

The 2021 Code of the State of Iowa §262.9.35 (PDF) requires that undergraduate courses enrolling 100 students or more implement a continuous improvement plan. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Regent universities are currently revising the reporting process to ensure that it is efficient, effective, and improves our student learning outcomes. At Iowa State University, faculty and administrators regularly review course data to effectively structure student support services.

Staff in the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost and the Office of Institutional Research compile information on the continuous improvement plans via a brief Qualtrics survey. A pdf version (280KB) of the survey is available for review. (Note: There is response logic built into the survey, so respondents will not answer all questions in the pdf file.) In April each year, individuals identified to submit a report for a course will receive an email invitation from Institutional Research to complete the online survey. Questions about the survey process should be directed to Julie LaBianca.

The legislation requires that the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, submit an annual report to the legislature on the continuous improvement plans. To meet this requirement, Iowa State compiles an annual summary report (PDF, 168KB) based on the Qualtrics survey responses. 

General questions about Iowa State’s implementation of this legislation may be directed to Shawn Boyne.