The University of Mississippi embraces a broad-based assessment process for evaluating institutional effectiveness by requiring each instructional program and unit (administrative, educational support, research, and public service) to define outcomes, perform regular assessment of its degree programs or operations, and report results and improvements from this self-assessment biannually. (See Assessment Timeline).
The assessment process is managed by Institutional Research and Assessment and coordinated through area Assessment Coordinators and the University Assessment Committee (UAC), with rotating faculty and staff membership. The UAC performs peer reviews of assessment work for each of the reporting units using rubrics for academic programs and nonacademic units to increase consistency and reliability of feedback to the units. The UAC recommends improvements in the assessment process, and informally assists units in planning and conducting assessments by sharing ideas and procedures.
Download an overview of great assessment plans.
A great assessment plan includes at least 3 outcome statements that are related to the university's mission and goals. The outcomes are also based on field and discipline norms. Great assessment plans focus on outcomes that the faculty and staff value and would like to improve. For academic programs, these statements focus on what students know or can do at the end of the program (e.g., Graduates effectively communicate in a writing style consistent with the field). For non-academic programs, these statements focus on services that are currently provided or on what clients can do as a result of the service.
A great assessment plan includes at least 2 ways of assessing each of the program or unit outcomes. These help you know how well the program or unit is doing. Means of assessment vary widely based on outcomes and the unit, but should be specific enough that the results can be expected to provide data that promotes specific improvements (see Item Analysis: Good Tools). Although in some cases surveys are the only way to measure an outcome, other more direct methods are often more appropraite. Faculty in academic programs may wish to consider using student artifacts that are completed during typical educational activities (e.g., faculty developed items embedded in final exams, comprehensive exams). The IR&A staff are available to help you develop and refine assessment methods.
For each means of assessment, units and programs should identify specific criteria for excellence. These should be thought of as standards of excellence rather than goals that must be acheived. Faculty and staff use the criteria to make decisions when the results are compiled. If the results fall below the criterion, the data lead to specific improvements. If the results are above the criterion, the program/unit should consider revising the assessment process or tool to assess another aspect of learning or services.
Download an overview of great assessment reports.
The results section of the report includes the summarized data for each means of assessment as well as links to additional details (e.g., raw data, tables, or graphs). These results should be directly linked to the criteria for excellence. For example, if the criterion for excellence indicates a percent of students will answer a question correctly, the results should give that percent of students rather than the average score.
The primary purpose of assessment is to help units and programs make improvements based on data. The use of results provides a description of the modifications made to the program or unit. These uses of results can range from curricular modificaitons to changes in policy.
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