Assessment Guidelines

The following guidelines were developed in the Academic Affairs Committee of the faculty Senate. After discussion, revision and debate in the Faculty Senate, the Dean's Council, the Planning Council and the Administrative council, the Guidelines were approved by all bodies. They are included in the Faculty Handbook.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney's primary accrediting agency, The Higher Learning Commission*, and the newly constituted Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education both now require institutions under their authority to implement programs of assessment.

A program of assessment begins with an inventory of assessment efforts already in place. Such efforts will be included in new policies developed by departments, colleges, and institution-wide governance. Additional means of assessment will be explored and, if found effective, included in the policies along with existing and proven practices.

Essentially, assessment provides documentation for the Higher Learning Commission's Criterion Three: "The institution is accomplishing its purposes." While all of the purposes found in UNK's Role and Mission Statement are subject to assessment, the heart of The Role and Mission Statement is UNK's commitment "to a quality educational experience for each student pursuing an undergraduate education." The following guidelines focus UNK's initial assessment program on this stated purpose.

Purpose of Assessment: The primary purpose of assessment is to gather information on student academic achievement at UNK. The information will direct curricular and programmatic change to improve and enhance student academic achievement.

While documentation of student academic achievement is the primary purpose of assessment, the broader goal, "a quality educational experience" and the other elements of the UNK Role and Mission Statement must be addressed.

Limits of Assessment: Assessment of student academic achievement during the program development years will not threaten students or their institutional progress. New barrier or gatekeeper tests are inappropriate during the years of program development. Existing barrier tests will be addressed in assessment policies.

Assessment will be entirely separate from faculty evaluation, which is subject to its own set of institutional guidelines. Listings of faculty accomplishments and generalized evidence of faculty teaching effectiveness might be included in institutional assessment reports, but individual faculty are not to be the subject of assessment.

Assessment at the Department Level: Assessment of graduating majors and alumni will be carried out at the department level by means the department proposes in a written department policy. Current assessment practices will be included. Additional means of assessment of the academic achievement of majors might include standardized tests, locally developed tests, and portfolios; alumni might be tracked and surveyed. Other measures, quantitative and qualitative, of "a quality educational experience" are appropriate. In general, multiple assessments are preferable to a single means of assessment.

Departments with graduate programs will include the assessment of graduate students and alumni in their policy.

Policies will be approved by the appropriate college committees and the Dean, and reported to the VCAA, the Graduate Council when appropriate, and the Academic Affairs Committee. Results of assessment activities will be addressed at the department level and summarized for the college academic committee and Dean, along with any proposals for change resulting from the assessment. Assessment summaries will also become part of the self-studies for five-year program reviews, annual updates, and accreditation studies.

Assessment at the College Level: Some college-level assessment of graduating seniors and other groups may be appropriate: in Education, for example, or across the three departments of Business. Policies should include existing college assessment efforts. Special missions of individual colleges will be addressed in any college-level policies.

Such policies will be approved by the college committee and the Dean and reported to the VCAA, the Graduate Council when appropriate, and Academic Affairs. The results of assessments and proposals for curricular change will be summarized for college academic committees and the Dean and included in the various program review documents as well as documents for accrediting studies.

The Graduate Council, in consultation with departments with graduate programs, will develop a policy regarding assessment of graduate students and programs. The policy will be reported to departments with graduate programs, the VCAA, and the Academic Affairs Committee. UNK Role and Mission Statements regarding graduate education and research will direct this policy

Assessment at the Institutional Level: Assessment of general education, including general studies and other institution-wide components in the students' educational experience, will be assigned to an appropriate office, reporting to the VCAA. This office will inventory current institution-wide assessment practices and develop a policy for institution-wide assessment. Policy for assessment of general education will be developed in consultation with Academic Affairs, representatives of departments with large general studies offerings, and areas of Student Services which contribute to "a quality educational experience." This policy will also address other appropriate elements of the UNK Role and Mission Statement.

Summaries of results of institution-wide assessment will be reported to the VCAA, the deans, and the Academic Affairs committee. They will be included in accreditation reports with materials on development and change in the general education program. Results relating to the service areas of particular departments will be considered by those departments in their curricular planning and reported by those departments in their program review documents.

Reports to Students: Whenever possible, individual students will receive as much information on their performance on assessment instruments as possible. Departments, colleges, and institution-wide offices share in this obligation. Department and institution-wide policies for assessment will include the mechanisms for returning results to individual students. In addition, students should be made aware that their participation is an important service to the institution and its ongoing development.

Protections for Human Subjects: All assessment studies at all levels must conform to the regulations of the UNK Institutional Review Board. While most assessment studies will be exempt, exemption forms must be filed with the IRB.

Funding for Assessment: Funding source(s) for assessment will be identified and funds provided for all levels of assessment.

Review of Assessment Policies: All assessment policies, including these guidelines, will be reviewed for possible revision annually by their originators. Changes will be approved and reported in the same way the initial policies were. In reviewing these guidelines, Academic Affairs will consider changes suggested by departments, colleges, and other interested parties. As assessment policies at all levels are reviewed, cost effectiveness will be a primary concern: assessment practices should be directly relevant, efficient, and valuable in planning for improvement in the accomplishment of the institutional mission.

Implementation Schedule: In order that UNK will have initial assessment plans in place by the 1994 North Central Visitation, implementation will proceed as follows:

Spring 1992 - General policy approved by Academic Affairs and Faculty Senate. Program review policy revised to include assessment information in department self-studies.

1992 - 1993 Academic year - Departments develop policy incorporating current assessment activities and pilot new assessment procedures. College and multi-department areas develop policies and pilot new procedures. Funding assigned as necessary. Responsibility for general education assessment assigned and funded. The responsible office develops policy and pilots new procedures.

1993 - 1994 Academic Year - All levels evaluate pilot studies and fully implement policies and procedures.

Distribution of Policy: This policy will be incorporated into the UNK Faculty Handbook. Graduate council and institution- wide assessment policies will be added as they are completed.

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