Assessment Alert: Assessment 101

Apr 17, 2015 by Nicole Lesher


In the last decade or so, there has been a nationwide shift from teacher-centered education, to learner-centered education. In the learner-centered model, the focus is on outputs: the knowledge students actually acquire and the skills, competencies or abilities they develop.  Oversimplified, it places the focus on what graduates can do when they leave a university.

I’m proud to say that CalSouthern is well ahead of the curve in this area. The university has embraced a learner-centered approach from its inception. We rely on assessment to gather data that allow us to make decisions that ensure students are developing the skills they need to succeed.

So what is assessment? Assessment:

  • is an on-going process designed to monitor and improve effectiveness;
  • establishes clear, measurable, expected outcomes;
  • ensures that learners have sufficient opportunities to achieve those outcomes;
  • involves systematically gathering, analyzing and interpreting evidence to determine how well student learning or institutional effectiveness matches the university’s expectations;
  • uses resulting information to understand and improve student learning, processes and institutional effectiveness; and
  • can be used broadly to improve any goal or activity.

Assessment at CalSouthern

assessment-largeThe overarching purpose of assessment here at CalSouthern is to integrate planning, evaluation and budgeting processes into a comprehensive program that encompasses both student achievement and quality support services. Assessment activities are intended to provide reliable evidence that demonstrates continuous, outcomes-focused efforts centered on the improvement of student learning and institutional effectiveness. Following are some specific goals for assessment at CalSouthern:

  1. Use assessment results for institutional decision-making and continuous improvement throughout the university.
  2. Provide evidence of a high-quality and supportive academic and co-curricular experience for all learners.
  3. Provide a conduit to collect evidence of effective student learning, administrative support and co-curricular services.
  4. Implement assessment activities that comply with accountability goals established by accrediting bodies and regulatory agencies.
  5. Share valid and reliable data and data-driven findings with all institutional stakeholders.

Assessment at CalSouthern occurs across three components of institutional effectiveness. The three components are academic programs (educational effectiveness), support services (administrative effectiveness) and co-curricular activities (co-curricular effectiveness). Results provide data-driven findings necessary to plan for the growth and improvement of the educational programs, services and related operations, and our co-curricular activities.

What does all this mean to you?

For those outside of the education sector, assessment may be a foreign concept. You might be wondering what this all means to you. To put it in concrete terms, here are the top five learner benefits of assessment at CalSouthern.

  1. It enables us to continually improve learning so you are assured of achieving your goals when you graduate.Group-Study
  2. It helps us identify areas where we can improve our curriculum to provide you with the skills you need to succeed in your career.
  3. It gives you a voice, allowing you to let us know what is important to you, as well as how well you are learning.
  4. It helps us provide increasingly valuable co-curricular services to support your learning.
  5. It ensures that we are continually improving our academic and support services—based on real data.

CalSouthern’s Department of Institutional Research and Assessment keeps all stakeholders, including our learners and faculty, at the center of our assessment processes. A critical part of that is keeping you informed.  So look for regular Assessment Alerts like this where we will share our assessment activities, their results and the resulting improvements.  Please keep an eye out for this section in upcoming editions of the CalSouthern Sun.

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