Assessment at Randolph-Macon College is comprehensive and includes the evaluation
Please click on the links above or to the left to learn more about the ongoing work
in each of these areas.
American Association of Higher Education
PRINCIPLES OF GOOD PRACTICE FOR ASSESSING STUDENT LEARNING
1. The assessment of student learning begins with educational values. Assessment
is not an end in itself but a vehicle for educational improvement. Its effective
practice, then, begins with and enacts a vision of the kinds of learning we most
value for students and strive to help them achieve. Educational values should drive
not only what we choose to assess but also how we do so. Where questions about educational
mission and values are skipped over, assessment threatens to be an exercise in measuring
what's easy, rather than a process of improving what we really care about.
2. Assessment is most effective when it reflects an understanding of learning as
multidimensional, integrated, and revealed in performance over time. Learning is
a complex process. It entails not only what students know but what they can do with
what they know; it involves not only knowledge and abilities but values, attitudes,
and habits of mind that affect both academic success and performance beyond the
classroom. Assessment should reflect these understandings by employing a diverse
array of methods including those that call for actual performance, using them over
time so as to reveal change, growth, and increasing degrees of integration. Such
an approach aims for a more complete and accurate picture of learning, and therefore
firmer bases for improving our students' educational experience.
3. Assessment works best when the programs it seeks to improve have clear, explicitly
stated purposes. Assessment is a goal-oriented process. It entails comparing educational
performance with educational purposes and expectations-these derived from the institution's
mission, from faculty intentions in program and course design, and from knowledge
of students' own goals. Where program purposes lack specificity or agreement, assessment
as a process pushes a campus toward clarity about where to aim and what standards
to apply; assessment also prompts attention to where and how program goals will
be taught and learned. Clear, shared, implementable goals are the cornerstone for
assessment that is focused and useful.
4. Assessment requires attention to outcomes but also and equally to the experiences
that lead to those outcomes. Information about outcomes is of high importance; where
students "end up" matters greatly. But to improve outcomes, we need to know about
student experience along the way-about the curricula, teaching, and kind of student
effort that lead to particular outcomes. Assessment can help understand which students
learn best under what conditions; with such knowledge comes the capacity to improve
the whole of their learning.
5. Assessment works best when it is ongoing, not episodic. Assessment is a process
whose power is cumulative. Though isolated, "one-shot" assessment can be better
than none, improvement is best fostered when assessment entails a linked series
of activities undertaken over time. This may mean tracking the progress of individual
students, or of cohorts of students; it may mean collecting the same examples of
student performance or using the same instrument semester after semester. The point
is to monitor progress toward intended goals in a spirit of continuous improvement.
Along the way, the assessment process itself should be evaluated and refined in
light of emerging insights.
6. Assessment fosters wider improvement when representatives from across the educational
community are involved. Student learning is a campus-wide responsibility, and assessment
is a way of enacting that responsibility. Thus, while assessment efforts may start
small, the aim over time is to involve people from across the educational community.
Faculty play an especially important role, but assessment's questions can't be fully
addressed without participation by student-affairs educators, librarians, administrators,
and students. Assessment may also involve individuals from beyond the campus (alumni/ae,
trustees, employers) whose experience can enrich the sense of appropriate aims and
standards for learning. Thus, understood, assessment is not a task for small groups
of experts but a collaborative activity; its aim is wider, better-informed attention
to student learning by all parties with a stake in its improvement.
7. Assessment makes a difference when it begins with issues of use and illuminates
questions that people really care about. Assessment recognizes the value of information
in the process of improvement. But to be useful, information must be connected to
issues or questions that people really care about. This implies assessment approaches
that produce evidence that relevant parties will find credible, suggestive, and
applicable to decisions that need to be made. It means thinking in advance about
how the information will be used, and by whom. The point of assessment is not to
gather data and return "results"; it is a process that starts with the questions
of decision-makers, that involves them in the gathering and interpreting of data,
and that informs and helps guide continuous improvement.
8. Assessment is most likely to lead to improvement when it is part of a larger
set of conditions that promote change. Assessment alone changes little. Its greatest
contribution comes on campuses where the quality of teaching and learning is visibly
valued and worked at. On such campuses, the push to improve educational performance
is a visible and primary goal of leadership; improving the quality of undergraduate
education is central to the institution's planning, budgeting, and personnel decisions.
On such campuses, information about learning outcomes is seen as an integral part
of decision making, and avidly sought.
9. Through assessment, educators meet responsibilities to students and to the public.
There is compelling public stake in education. As educators, we have a responsibility
to the publics that support or depend on us to provide information about the ways
in which our students meet goals and expectations. But that responsibility goes
beyond the reporting of such information; our deeper obligation-to ourselves, our
students, and society-is to improve. Those to whom educators are accountable have
a corresponding obligation to support such attempts at improvement.
Alexander W. Astin, University of California at Los Angeles; Trudy W. Banta, Indiana
University-Purdue University at Indianapolis; K. Patricia Cross, University of California,
Berkeley; Elaine El-Khawas, American Council on Education; Peter T. Ewell, National
Center for Higher Education Management Systems; Pat Hutchings, American Association
for Higher Education; Theodore J. Marchese, American Association for Higher Education;
Kay M. McClenney, Education Commission of the States; Marcia Mentkowski, Alverno
College; Margaret A. Miller, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia; E.
Thomas Moran, State University of New York, Plattsburgh; Barbara D. Wright, University
This statement was developed under the auspices of the AAHE Assessment Forum, a
project of the American Association for Higher Education, with support from the
Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. It builds on earlier efforts,
by campuses and other groups, to articulate guidelines for assessment's practice;
its intent is to synthesize important work already done and to invite further statements
about the responsible and effective conduct of assessment.
Development of this statement was sponsored by the American Association for Higher
Education (AAHE) and supported by the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary
Education (FIPSE); publication and dissemination was supported by the Exxon Education