Analyzing and Reporting Assessment Results
An assessment plan’s value to the department lies in the evidence it offers about overall department or program strengths and weaknesses, and in the evidence it provides for change (Wright, 1991). The key factors in achieving real value from all of your work is to make the most out of the information you have collected by using effective analysis and interpretation practices.
The Best Ways to Analyze and Interpret Assessment Information
- Present the data in relation to the program’s identified goals and objectives
- Use qualitative and quantitative methods to present a well-balanced picture of the assessment goals and driving questions
- Vary your analysis and reporting procedures according to identified audiences (accreditors, campus report etc)
- Develop recommendations based on the analysis of data and using identified goals as a framework within which to accomplish suggested changes
Consider the extent to which your findings can help you answer the following questions:
- What does the data say about students’ mastery of subject matter, research skills, or writing?
- What does it say about meeting benchmark expectations?
- What does the data say about your students’ preparation for taking the next step in their careers?
- Are graduates of your program getting good jobs, accepted into reputable graduate schools?
- Are there areas where your students are outstanding?
- Do you see weakness in any particular skills, such as research or critical thinking skills?
These are compelling questions for faculty, administrators, students, and external audiences alike. If your assessment information can shed light on these issues, the value of your efforts will become all the more apparent.
Remember that data can often be misleading, and even threatening, when used for purposes other than originally intended and agreed upon. For example, data collected from the assessment of student performance in a capstone course should be used to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses in student learning “across the students’ entire experience in the major”. In this way, the data can guide curricular modifications and departmental pedagogical strategies. The data should NOT be used to evaluate the performance of the capstone course instructor.
Preparing Effective Assessment Plans & Reports
At its most basic, your report should have enough information to answer five basic questions:
- What did you do?
- Why did you do it?
- What did you find?
- How will you use it?
- What is your evaluation of the assessment itself?
Format of the Assessment Plans and Reports
A comprehensive program assessment plan and report could be as simple as a presentation to departments on the major results or it could be a detailed report to the Provost on assessing learning outcomes in the program. The reality is that a program rarely has only one purpose for engaging in assessment. Therefore, you may want to develop reports that are tailored specifically to the audiences you need to address.
If you have decided to prepare a formal assessment report, your report should address each of the identified audiences and might contain some or all of the following:
- A brief description of why the assessment activity was undertaken
- A brief description of the major, goals, objectives and intended learning outcomes
- An explanation of how the analysis was done and what methodology was used
- A presentation of major findings
- A discussion of how results are being used for program improvement
- An evaluation of the assessment plan/process itself
- An outline of next steps (programmatic, curricular, and assessment-related)
- An appendix containing a curriculum analysis matrix, relevant assignments and outcomes, data collection methods, and other information or materials as appropriate
Assessment reports do not necessarily have to be pages and pages of text and graphs to be effective. You may choose to prepare a report that briefly and succinctly outlines your assessment program results. By highlighting the main points and significant results, you can convey in a concise manner what you were trying to accomplish, what you did and did not accomplish, and what changes you will implement as a result.