Academic Assessment  
 
 
 
 
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AN OVERVIEW
     Introduction
     Assessment at Mercer to include:
         What is Assessment?
         History
 
 
 
     Assessment is based on a process in which faculty and staff have identified the most appropriate learning outcomes or service objective for specific programs.  The purpose of assessment is to provide information on the performance of its curriculum, learning process, and/or services, thereby allowing each unit to improve its programs.  It is not an evaluation of individual students or of individual faculty or staff.
 
     In the mid 1980s educators as well as the public began to recognize the need for assessment in higher education.  Reports such as the National Institute of Education's "Involvement in Learning (1984)" and the National Governors Association's "Time for Results (1986)" focused attention on the preparation of college graduates.
 
  • Were they learning what they should be learning?
  • Were they able to apply specialized knowledge and skills in the workplace or as they sought further education?
  • Were they able to communicate well and solve problems?
 
 
     A few institutions such as Alverno College, Truman State University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, were in a position to respond quickly to these questions.  In the fall of 1988, Secretary of Education William Bennett issued an executive order requiring all federally approved accreditation organizations to include in their criteria for accreditation evidence of institutional outcomes.  SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) has been a leader among accreditation organizations in placing priorities on assessment programs.  It requires its member institutions to demonstrate a history of the use of assessment to improve instructional and service programs.
 
 
ASSESSMENT AT MERCER
 
 
     Assessment is the systematic collection, review and use of information about programs undertaken for the purpose of improving student learning and develpment  (Catherine A. Palomba and Trudy W. Banta, Assessment Essentials:  Planning, Implementing, and Improving Assessment in Higher Education).
 
 
     Mercer University has engaged in a variety of assessment methods and practices for many years that were designed to improve student learning and services to students.  In the 2002-2003 academic year, the University initiated the process of implementing a comprehensive assessment program with the intention of providing a systematic approach for all instructional and service programs to use in assessing their effectiveness.  Since then, 165 academic, administrative programs and support have prepared assessment plans that have been entered into the Web-based Assessment Record.  As expected with any campus-wide initiative involving new methodologies and technologies, it will take time to achieve desired results. 
 
 
     All instructional and administrative or educational support (AES) programs at Mercer develop plans consistent in format and are reported on the Web-based Assessment Record (AR).  The plans are linked to the University's mission and/or goals.  Instructional programs state student learning outcomes which are descriptions of what programs intend for students to know (cognitive), think (attitudinal), or do (behavioral) when they have completed the program.  AES programs state service objectives which describe how well the unit intends to function or improve services.
 
     The means for assessment and criteria for success for each outcome or objective is identified.  Programs are encouraged to have multiple means of assessment and criteria for success for each outcome objective.
 
 
     Programs implement stated means of assessment and enter collected summary data on the Assessment Record.  They then describe how this information was used to make improvements.  If the program fails to meet its criteria for success, it is asked to describe what plans will be taken to assure that the criteria will be met.
 
 
     The University Assessment Council (UAC) reviews the Assessment Record at the end of each cycle.  Suggestions for improvement in the assessment process are forwarded to respective units, Deans, Vice Presidents or Directors. 
 
 
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