Assessment Issues

On any campus there are numerous individuals involved in assessment including classroom faculty, administrators, program directors, librarians, student services offices and institutional research staff. The results of assessment are also of interest to a broad audience including those who participated in the assessment as well as accreditation agencies and the broader community.

Assessment is essential for the following reasons:

  • Monitor effectiveness for accountability
  • Better identify instructional practices
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of instructional practices
  • Measure student achievement: how much they know
  • Evaluate students' mastery of skills: What they can do.

Assessment is an ongoing process aimed at understanding and improving student learning.

It involves making our expectations explicit and public; setting appropriate criteria and high standards for learning quality; systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well performance matches those expectations and standards; and using the resulting information to document, explain, and improve performance. When it is embedded effectively within larger institutional systems, assessment can help us focus our collective attention, examine our assumptions, and create a shared academic culture dedicated to assuring and improving the quality of higher education (Thomas A. Angelo, AAHE Bulletin, November 1995, p.7).

Assessment can be on four different yet interrelated levels.

Within the library
Librarians are involved not just in teaching but also in assessment of student learning and evaluation of program effectiveness. Generally librarians have very little background in assessment and therefore are interested in forming partnerships with others on campus to learn about various aspects that are not specific to the job as librarians. Assessments can include in-class assignments or activities, print or web-based tutorials, and competency tests or self-assessments administered as pre- or post tests.

In the classroom
Assessment in the classroom focuses on the course syllabus, course assignments and activities, and the process by which students create those products. Assessment includes evaluation of bibliographies, reviews of assignments that underscore the research process, and the use of portfolios or journals.

Assessment at the campus level includes a review of academic programs for integration of information literacy components and evaluation of syllabi for core courses for incorporation of assignments that promote information literacy.

Beyond the campus
Assessment can extend beyond the campus by looking at our graduates as they join the workforce. Are students prepared to function as professionals in their chosen careers? Have they “learned how to learn” and can they remain informed within the constantly changing information venues of their chosen profession?

(from article: Bosseau, Don L.; Martin, Susan K. (1999). We are Teaching, but are They Learning: Accountability, Productivity, and Assessment. Journal of the Academic Librarianship 25, July: pp. 304-305.)

For further information:

Bibliography on Assessment Issues

Standards Toolkit

Information Literacy in Action

The American Association for Higher Education & Accreditation, ASSESSMENT FORUM's 9 Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning

University of Maryland's Assessment Resource Center