Higher education institutional culture has shifted from an emphasis on assessing teaching methodology to assessing student learning (Allen, 2006) as a way of measuring educational quality.
This change of paradigm will also make it more difficult to assess quality because it will be necessary to assess not only the quality of teaching, but also the quality of learning, which means assessing the performance of graduates in the world of work. Is this feasible? (Hirsch & Weber, 1999, p. 9)
Accrediting agencies emphasize student learning outcomes and assess student learning during the accreditation process (Burke, 2005). Colleges and universities seek regional accreditation, and several programs pursue program-level accreditation. This is an additional process designed to demonstrate that quality learning is taking place. Institutions invest considerable time and financial resources during the accreditation process, which includes preparing for the assessment, the site visit and any follow-up actions based on the findings. Student learning is an important component in the assessment process.
Assessing learning outcomes is an integral component to ensure that quality learning is occurring. Institutions increasingly understand the need to convince stakeholders of the value of their credentials and how coursework will demonstrate the knowledge, skills and behaviors students are expected to acquire as a result of their education (Banta, 2001). In an analysis of student assessment, Otter (1995) says that competence statements define "what learners are in-tended to achieve" (p. 45) rather than the courses or programs of learning that are used to develop them.