The purpose of this presentation is to explain the generally accepted principles of good practice for assessing student learning and describe methods to implement an effective assessment program. However, assessment is not an end in itself but more importantly a means for continuous educational improvement. As such, an effective assessment program becomes the basis for continuous improvement in our higher educational efforts. In addition, an effective assessment program can provide a means to enhance stakeholder involvement and ownership in our educational process. Although this stakeholder or constituency involvement is required in universities offering ABET accredited safetyrelated degree programs, it is highly recommended for any institution of higher education interested in improving their educational efforts.
On the downside, an assessment program requires considerable effort and can be a significant burden on program faculty and administrators without generating any positive results. To generate desired results, the assessment data must be collected, analyzed, evaluated, and used in decision-making as part of a continuous improvement process. Accepted principles of good practice for assessing student learning must be followed and effective assessment methods used for the data to be useful for fact-based program improvements. The following principles of good assessment practice are distilled from work developed under the auspices of the American Association for Higher Education Assessment Forum.
The first essential principle of good practice is that effective assessment must be driven by the institution's educational mission and core objectives to ensure a process for improving what we truly value. More specifically educational outcomes associated with curricular course work must relate directly back to the safety degree program mission and associate educational objectives. Development of educational outcomes and longer range educational objectives requires involvement and insights from employers, industry advisors, alumni, faculty, internal and external program evaluators, and our professional society. The role and responsibly of each group must be defined and incorporated into a comprehensive assessment plan for continuous improvement.
The next principle is based on the fact that learning is multidimensional, integrated, and revealed in improved performance over time of matriculation. Learning involves not only knowledge and ability to apply that knowledge but values and attitudes that affect academic success and job performance beyond the classroom. Assessment should reflect this understanding by employing diverse methods over time of matriculation for a more complete and accurate picture of student learning. Effective assessment works best when it is ongoing, not episodic. Although an isolated, one-shot assessment is better than nothing, improvement over time is the intent of an effective continuous improvement program. Effective assessment planning is essential to gaining insights into student learning and development.