Skip to content

Assessment at Baruch

Understanding the Cycle of Assessmenttitle

Assessment: A Three-Step Cycle

Assessment is a process which can be applied to student learning, student development, service delivery, institutional effectiveness -- virtually to any aspect of a college or university (or indeed, any organization).

The assessment cycle shown and discussed below is sometimes referred to as the "Plan-Assess-Improve" method.


What is outcomes assessment?

1. Set Standards for Learning

First, standards (i.e. intended learning, development, or service delivery goals or desired outcomes) must be set. Without standards, nothing can be assessed. It is best for standards to be enumerated and precisely defined: rather than saying that students should "Acquire a breadth of linguistic knowledge," for example, it is better to say that students should "Acquire a working knowledge of phonology, syntax, and semantics." This way, each standard can be individually evaluated, and subjective judgements are kept to a minimum.

Although the language here refers to "Standards for Learning," these same steps apply for student or professional development, service delivery, and other aspects of institutional effectiveness.

2. Systematically Gather, Analyze, and Interpret Evidence

The next step is to evaluate how well your standards or desired outcomes are being met. This is the most labor intensive step and the step which is most frequently associated with "assessment." Standards must be mapped to a rubric, by which student performance will be graded and ranked to give a statistical insight into how well students are meeting standards (and, by extension, how well a program is ensuring that its standards are met).

Data must be collected, analyzed, and interpreted. The collection can be done using surveys, assessment of a final project or portfolio, or standardized testing.

3. Use Information to Improve Performance

The final step is to put the assessment report into practice. This can take numerous forms, including restructuring the curriculum, redefining learning goals to better match the skills that students are actually acquiring, changing standards for program admission, adding courses, and hiring new faculty.

Starting the Process Over Again

An assessment is only of value insofar as its findings are applied; ideally, whatever changes are made on the basis of your findings will effectively correct any problems that were found while continuing to foster identified successes. However, it is not enough to simply assume that these changes had the effect that they were presumed to, which is why the entire assessment cycle starts over again.

Assessment is ultimately about identifying which practices are successful and which are unsuccessful, and trying to fix the latter while preserving the former. It is, by necessity, an interative process, and must continuously change to reflect the realities of a given program or service delivery.