WHY DOES ASSESSMENT MATTER?
Understanding student learning, and applying our knowledge of learning to improve teaching, is our shared responsibility as educators. We want to understand how learning happens, how curricula and instruction can foster learning, and how different environments support learning. Assessment of student learning is not just a task we have to carry out to meet the requirements of accrediting bodies; assessment is an act of intellectual inquiry.
We should apply the same rigor to assessment of student learning that we do to research and scholarship in our own disciplines. When we assess student learning, we ask ourselves fundamental questions about the nature and purpose of education:
- What do we want students to know and to be able to do?
- How do we know what they’ve learned? How do we know what they missed learning?
- What do we know about teaching and learning that can help them learn better?
By helping us develop reliable, evidence-based information, assessment strengthens our program development. Systematic assessment confirms what works — and what doesn’t work — and gives us confidence to make good decisions about our academic programs.
Assessment of student learning promotes collaboration among faculty members. Just as our academic programs reflect the disciplinary diversity among our faculty, assessment yields more robust, useful information when we work across disciplines. Through assessment of student learning, we demonstrate our commitment to the education of our students; to improving our own teaching and research; and ultimately to the University community, by continually improving the quality of our work. Assessment provides a solid foundation for demonstrating accountability. We hold our students accountable for their learning, and we hold ourselves accountable for the educational environments we create.