General Education Assessment
The assessment of academic programs is grounded in the principles practiced by the best teachers. Focusing on assessment, the best teachers constantly monitor and evaluate the progress of each student. On a larger scale, they also reflect upon the quality of the class itself: they consider the balance and effectiveness of daily assignments, the quality and relevance of textbooks and readings, the nature and type of graded work across a semester. The best teachers work to make sure that the courses they teach have clear objectives and that those objectives are met-and that they regularly consider ways to improve upon the classroom experience.
Similarly, the University regularly assesses its academic programming, both the foundational general education courses and the advanced and specialized programs of study, the academic majors.
As an institution, the University is constantly seeking to improve. Our commitment to regular, honest, and reflective assessment of our academic programs demonstrates our commitment to improving the quality of the Sewanee experience.
It is an absolute requirement of SACS that instructors of all courses with General Education attributes use assessment data periodically as the basis for some change that is meant to address one or more skills or content areas that students seem to have difficulty mastering.
There are four parts to the assessment procedure (and report):
- State your key student learning objective(s). These should also have appeared in the syllabus (or future syllabi) of the course. General statements of key learning objectives for the General Education program can be found here. You may articulate these statements into more specific sub-goals that you feel comprise the essence of the over-arching goal. Recall, in the end, that the goal of assessment is to identify key learning areas (content and/or skills) that students struggle to grasp so that we can focus our efforts to help future students master these goals.
- Determine (and describe in the report) the exercise(s) that you use to measure student achievement with respect to each objective. (These may be regular exercises from the class.)
- Collect data on each exercise. Many will use a five-point scale (essentially A-F or 1-5) to clarify the degree of student achievement; you may use a more detailed scale, but please do not use a simple binary scale ("achieved/did not achieve"). Data can also be anecdotal / narrative in form, such as comments from course evaluations, especially if you have tailored questions to address your course objectives.
- Review the results collected above and outline the changes you will make to the course to improve the educational experience-how future groups of students might be better aided. This "Use of Data" section is the most important part of the report, from the point-of-view of SACS, and it should describe what was done or is being done in a course or curricula to address student learning difficulties. Assessment data must be used as the basis for some change no less frequently than once every three years. If you have not included a Use of Data section in any of your recent assessment reports, please be sure to review your past data, consider modifications for future courses, and detail what changes you intend to make and why.
Reports are due every semester within approximately two working weeks from the end of exams. Specific deadlines will be announced each semester.
The worksheets below were developed by the CAPC to aid, simplify, and help standardize the assessment process.