Language for Assessment
Document August 9, 2001
CUPR has developed
this document to articulate a shared conceptual understanding and common
language for those who desire to work with CUPR. It clarifies terms
and definitions used in the Undergraduate Academic Program Review Guidelines
and in CUPR's program review activities. We understand that terms such
as "assessment" and "outcomes" are defined and used
differently by various practitioners and even by various accrediting
bodies, and that they may mean different things when applied to entire
academic programs than when they are applied to individual courses or
class assignments. We do not wish to criticize or discard all those
distinctions and subtleties. Rather, we want to clarify concepts and
definitions used in CUPR's guidelines and activities and improve communication
between CUPR and representatives of NC State's academic programs.
For our purposes,
therefore, assessment is a form of research that allows for systematic
evaluation of the extent to which the program meets its objectives (goals*)
and outcomes. At NC State University, especially in the academic arena,
it is used to improve programs through proactive, well-informed decision-making.
* goals will hereafter
be referred to as objectives
are the Purposes of Assessment?
- To indicate the
extent to which a program achieves its objectives and outcomes so
that the program can use the findings to inform
to improve the program,
of program objectives, and
allocation and budget requests.
- To report program
progress and results to audiences such as faculty, deans, the provost,
the undergraduate program review committee (CUPR), the Council on
Undergraduate Education (CUE), external accrediting bodies, colleagues
in other programs and at other institutions, and current and prospective
is the Assessment Cycle?
The assessment cycle
is continuous. It should identify/document strengths, weaknesses, needs,
improvements and future plans:
- It begins with
the identification of program missions, objectives, and outcomes
- It continues
with the evaluation of those missions, objectives and outcomes
- Through the reporting
of the results of the evaluation, it uses the results for the purposes
- Then, it begins
again, reexamining mission, objectives, and outcomes, evaluating the
- They are broad,
general statements of  what the program wants students to be able
to do and to know or  what the program will do to ensure what students
will be able to do and to know.
- They are evaluated
directly or indirectly by measuring specific outcomes related to the
- They are related
to the mission and goals of the department and college in which the
program resides, and to the mission and goals of the University.
- Outcomes are
more detailed and specific statements derived from the objectives.
They are used to determine the presence or absence of, amount of,
or level of the behavior or knowledge specified by an objective.
- They may be things
the program wants students to know (cognitive), ways students think
(affective/attitudinal), or things students should be able to do (behavioral,
- Outcomes are
observable, measurable results or evidence of the educational experience.
- They are detailed
and meaningful enough to guide decisions in program planning and improvement
and decisions about pedagogy and practice.
is Assessment Conducted?
(assessors) systematically collect and review measures that demonstrate
whether or to what extent outcomes have been achieved.
- Measures may
be quantitative or qualitative, direct or indirect. They go beyond
performance indicators such as graduation rates and may take the form
of surveys, assignments or student products from portfolios and capstone
courses, interviews, etc.
- It is best if
multiple sources of evidence can be used to demonstrate the achievement
common language information, please see the UAPR
Frequently Asked Questions