What is Assessment?
Assessment is a process that involves defining goals, systematic measurement of them, review and use of the information collected for the purpose of improving student learning and institutional effectiveness. Assessment itself does not lead to improvement and effectiveness, but actions based on assessment results can.
Most of us already use assessment in our personal and professional lives. We set goals for ourselves, receive feedback about our progress towards them, and use that to make necessary adjustments to keep ourselves on track. In our professional lives we use feedback about what we do and how we are doing it, then use that input to make improvements.
In higher education assessment is used at the classroom level to determine how well students are achieving the stated learning goals of the course. At the program level assessment is used to determine if a program is fulfilling its goals. At the institutional level it is used to determine how effective an institution is in meeting its goals.
Why do Assessment?
How do we know our students are learning what we want them to learn? The ability of an institution to document the answer to that question is a requirement for continued accreditation, but it is also a question that should be asked because it speaks to the fundamental teaching mission of higher education.