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Assessment Glossary

Accreditation: A process of assessing the quality of institutions, programs and services; ensuring they meet the standards of the accreditation agency.

Accreditation Agency: A nongovernmental body established to administer accrediting procedures. 

Assessment: "Assessment is the systematic collection, review, and use of information about educational programs undertaken for the purpose of improving student learning and development." (Palomba & Banta, 1999) 

Benchmarking: A data point of comparison that can be measured over time. Often external benchmarks are used such as peer institutions or peer programs. 

Capstone Course/Culminating Experience: An upper division course, project, or experience that integrates concepts, knowledge, and skills of an entire sequence of study in a given program such as a senior thesis. 

Course-embedded Assessment: A method in which evidence of student learning outcomes for the program is obtained from assignments in particular courses in the curriculum. 

Criterion-Referenced Assessment: Measure student performance against a fixed set of predetermined criteria or learning standards 

Curriculum Map: A matrix showing the coverage of each program learning outcome in each course. 

Direct Assessment/Direct Evidence: Assessment that provides direct evidence of student learning. Examples include: course papers and assignments, performances, exhibits, licensure and professional exams, standardized tests like the GRE subject tests. 

Exams: Tests that may include multiple-choice, true-false, response selection, essays and/or problems. 

Field Experience: Application of knowledge and analysis in professional settings. 

Focus Groups: Carefully planned group discussions conducted by trained moderators. A small number of questions, developed in advance, is used to generate in-depth consideration of a narrowly defined topic. Focus groups examine perceptions, feelings, attitudes and ideas 

Formative Assessment: Formative assessment refers to the gathering of information or data about student learning during a course or program that is used to guide improvements in teaching and learning. 

Goals: General expectations for students. Effective goals are broadly stated, meaningful, achievable, and assessable. 

Indirect Assessment: Assessment that yields indirect evidence of student learning or perception of student learning such as: student surveys, focus groups, exit interviews, job and graduate school placement, graduation and retention rates, etc.

Institutional Assessment: Assessment to determine the extent to which a college or university is achieving its mission. 

Norm-Referenced Assessment: Measuring student performance against the performance of their peers 

Objectives: Express intended learning outcomes in precise terms, describing specific behaviors and knowledge students should exhibit. 

Open Pathway: A pathway for maintaining accreditation with HLC that features a 10-year reaffirmation cycle where quality assurance and quality improvement are addressed separately. 

Oral Presentations: Reports given to a group including experts who evaluate the work presented. 

Outcomes: Clear, concise statements that describe how students can demonstrate their mastery of program goals. 

Portfolios: Systematic collections of students' works that are evaluated by set standards for evidence of learning and development. 

Quality Initiative: A major quality improvement effort conducted by institutions between Years 5 and 9 of the Open Pathway that addresses a current concern or aspiration specific to the institution. 

Reliability: Indicates that an assessment instrument, such as a comprehensive examination or survey, will produce consistent results over time. 

Rubric: A set of criteria specifying the characteristics of a learning outcome and the levels of achievement in each characteristic. A rubric can be used as a tool for measuring subjective skills that can be incorporated into routine grading. Click here, here, and here for examples of grading rubrics. 

Standards: An established level of accomplishment that all students are expected to meet or exceed. 

Summative Assessment: The gathering of information at the conclusion of a course, program, or undergraduate career to improve learning or to meet accountability demands. 

Survey: Method of collecting information from people about their characteristics, behaviors, attitudes, or perceptions. Most often surveys are questionnaires or structured interviews, administered by mail, telephone or completed at the site, requiring a specific set of questions, appropriate instructions and a carefully constructed data collection instrument. 

Validity: The instrument's accuracy in measuring what a program/department is trying to measure. 

Adapted from: 

Palomba & Banta (1999)