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Assessment Day

The following expandable sections provide some of the details regarding Assessment Day that may be most relevant to both faculty at JMU and those visitors to our website. If you have any further questions not answered by the information below, please contact us at assessment@jmu.edu.



What is Assessment Day and who is assessed?

The mission of James Madison University’s Assessment Day is to facilitate high quality, pre-post data collection on student learning and developmental outcomes. The focus of Assessment Day is to collect information to assess programs with broad scope and high intensity, such as General Education clusters, large-scale student affairs programs, and university-wide initiatives such as the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP).

On Assessment Day, JMU undergraduates are tested on their knowledge in one of the General Education areas of communication, history, science, mathematics, or fine arts. Students may also complete tests measuring critical thinking, cultural knowledge, or intellectual and personal development. In addition, students may complete assessments related to ethical reasoning in order to assess JMU’s QEP, the Madison Collaborative.

Each year, there are two Assessment Days: one in late August (the fall Assessment Day) and one in mid-February (the spring Assessment Day). Incoming first year students are assessed on the fall Assessment Day. After earning 45 to 70 credit hours, typically in the second year at JMU, students are tested again on the spring Assessment Day. All students are assigned the same tests they completed as entering first year students at the second Assessment Day; this allows JMU to assess how much has been gained from the academic experience.

Who coordinates data collection on Assessment Day?

The Center for Assessment and Research Studies (CARS) is responsible for the coordination of university-wide assessments. Specifically, it is the responsibility of the Assessment Day team within CARS to coordinate the administration of university-wide assessments on both fall and spring Assessment Days. Any questions regarding Assessment Day can be directed to the CARS email address at assessment@jmu.edu.

Why do we have Assessment Day?

Twice a year, Assessment Day is used to collect high quality data to assess university-wide objectives. These results ensure the quality of education for the students by pinpointing strengths and weaknesses in both General Education and student affairs programs using a pre-post data collection design. For example, when the results from JMU’s Quantitative and Scientific reasoning test indicated that students were not mastering a particular learning objective associated with Cluster 3 coursework, faculty changed their instruction to facilitate mastery of that objective. Results pertaining to changes in behaviors and attitudes have also been used to assess the effectiveness of various student affairs programs and campus wide initiatives. Further examples of how Assessment Day data are used are available here. Thus, the results from Assessment Day are used to make JMU a better university.

Another way in which JMU uses the results is to convey the quality of the JMU experience to external stakeholders. For instance, results are presented to our accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Hence JMU’s reputation is upheld to external bodies by the results derived from the data we collect on Assessment Day.

How can Spring Assessment Day be used for academic program assessment?

Though classes before 4 PM are cancelled on Spring Assessment Day, academic programs are strongly encouraged to devote this time to program-level assessment. Many academic programs find Spring Assessment Day an ideal time to administer assessments or hold exit interviews with their graduating seniors. Other programs reserve this day for the program faculty to meet and make progress on time intensive assessment activities. For instance, some programs use Spring Assessment Day to reflect on program assessment results, revise learning objectives, refine instruments, or rate student work. If you are interested in how your program uses Spring Assessment Day, contact the Assessment Coordinator in your program. If you are an Assessment Coordinator wanting to learn more about how your program could use Spring Assessment Day, contact Program Assessment Support Services (PASS). PASS is available to Assessment Coordinators for consultation on any program assessment issue, including the use of Assessment Day for data collection purposes.

What is the class cancellation policy on Spring Assessment Day?

All classes (including graduate-level classes and labs) starting before 4 PM are cancelled on Spring Assessment Day. This frees the schedules of students and faculty so that they may engage in university-wide and program-level assessment activities. This policy also ensures classroom space for such activities to occur. Students should not be required to make-up classes cancelled on Spring Assessment Day. For example, faculty should not require students to attend a make-up class on a Saturday. Instead, the missed instructional time should be accommodated within the remaining class meeting times or through electronic means.

How can faculty help with Assessment Day?

The most important action faculty can take is to emphasize the importance and uses of Assessment Day to students and colleagues. If faculty want a more active role in Assessment Day, consider signing up to proctor on Assessment Day. Alternately, faculty may shadow the Assessment Day team on Assessment Day to get a feel for how Assessment Day is typically run. Contact assessment@jmu.edu for more information. Lastly, helping to direct students to their assigned classrooms, particularly in fall, is an easy way to get involved and help make Assessment Day the best it can be for students.