Academic Unit (Departmental) Assessment

Academic assessment is an ongoing process of the highest priority at the University of Montana. Our accrediting agency, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities requires that we focus our attention on the quality and effectiveness of our programs.

What is Assessment?

According to Dr. Tom Angelo (1995), assessment is "an ongoing process aimed at understanding and improving student learning. It involves:

  • Making expectations explicit and public;
  • Setting appropriate criteria and high expectations for learning quality; systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well performance matches those expectations and standards; and
  • Using the resulting information to document, explain, and improve performance.”

Simply put, assessment (often called outcomes assessment) is the process by which we:

  1. Evaluate curriculum;
  2. Plan improvements when necessary; and
  3. Evaluate the effects of the changes.

Assessment helps departments affirm those things in their curriculum and courses that are going well. Assessment also helps identify areas for improvement, and often points to the specific changes that might be needed. Assessment is not static; rather, it is an ongoing and continuous effort to improve the quality of instruction, student learning, and overall effectiveness of a department or unit.

Assessment Procedures

The steps for developing an assessment plan include:

  • Reviewing, revising, and/or writing your unit’s mission statement;
  • Determining objectives and student learning outcomes for your program;
  • Identifying the educational experiences or activities necessary to attain those outcomes;
  • Identifying measures to assess progress toward meeting student learning outcomes;
  • Developing a plan for gathering the data;
  • Collecting, analyzing, and interpreting the data;
  • Using the data to continuously revise and improve students’ educational experiences and activities;
  • Communicating the results.

Biennial Assessment Report

Academic units are required to report on their assessment efforts biennially. This report communicates the assessment results from the previous year and includes the unit's plan for future assessment.

  • The reports are initially reviewed by the Office of the Provost assessment lead and published to the Department Reports website.
  • The Assessment Advisory Committee reviews each report and provides feedback to help departments improve their future assessment efforts.