Why do we/should we do academic program assessment?

Many faculty and administrators find themselves asking "Why should we assess our academic programs?". The answer is twofold: 1) accountability, and 2) to improve student learning. Many focus too often on the first reason. While yes, assessing our programs is a requirement of our accreditors and stakeholders, it is not the only reason we should assess our programs. At JMU, we meet our accountability requirements through a focus on improving student learning in our academic programs. Academic programs use assessment to identify student learning objectives that students may be struggling or excelling with. Then, after making curricular changes, programs use assessment to see if their changes were helpful. This process of assess, make modifications, and re-assess is the heart of the JMU assessment process.  


At JMU, we use a meta-assessment process for our academic degree programs. Meta-assessment is the process of evaluating and providing diagnostic feedback to academic degree programs' assessment plans. We do this so that our academic programs have the highest quality assessment plans in place. Through this process, we seek constant improvement on assessment processes tied with modifying curriculum to improve student learning.  

How do we actually do it?

The meta-assessment process is operationalized into an assessment progress template (APT). These APT reports are organized assessment plans which cover the entire assessment process (from student learning outcomes to using assessment results) written by the academic degree programs themselves. APTs are submitted to the Center for Assessment & Research Studies (CARS) on a yearly basis and are rated by teams of faculty and graduate students according to a predefined rubric. Academic programs receive scores on the rubric and quantitative feedback each year to guide modifications to both the assessment process and the program's curriculum.  

Additional Information:  

The following presentation, given at the annual meeting of SACSCOC in December 2016, provides a brief overview of the meta-assessment process at JMU. Please contact JMU's Program Assessment Support Services (PASS) (link to PASS page) team with further questions. A shorter webinar of the presentation can also be found below: 

SACSCOC Meta-Assessment JMU Workshop (ppt) 

Meta-Assessment Webinar (offered through AALHE in 2016) 

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