Director: Michael Torrens
Location: Main 302, UMC 1437
Phone: (435) 797-0220
FAX: (435) 797-1680
Analysis, Assessment and Accreditation (AAA) gathers and analyzes information about University activities and outcomes, ensuring that Utah State University meets and exceeds its goals. Working with stakeholders inside and outside USU, AAA helps to establish systems and measures that facilitate and inform continuous improvement. By gathering and analyzing information on USU students, faculty and the University community, AAA focuses attention on analysis, assessment and accreditation activities and outcomes.
Educational assessment involves gathering and analyzing information about learning activities with the goal of improving academic programs.
Educational assessment is important for a number of reasons. First, Utah State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, as well as a number of discipline-specific accreditation bodies, and assessment is a core component of accreditation. Second, by documenting the effectiveness of its educational programs, USU demonstrates accountability of resource use to the USU Board of Trustees, the Utah State Board of Regents, the Utah State Legislature and the U.S. Government. Finally and perhaps most importantly, faculty and administrators at USU have an innate intellectual curiosity and a strong desire and commitment to improving outcomes for USU students by making the institution better. To meet these objectives, the following policy on assessment has been formally approved by the USU Board of Trustees:
The University is committed to timely internal and external assessment of its programs to assist in productive academic planning and the fulfillment of its mission and goals. To meet this commitment, the University and all of its units shall gather, analyze, and publish data annually that relate to the planning for and evaluation of the accomplishment of the missions, goals, and objectives of the University and its units. Such assessments are intended to determine the extent to which University programs meet their goals and objectives and further the mission of the University; to establish a culture of evidence for assessment; and to meet the standards of the Regents, the Trustees, the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities, and USU. The assessment process shall be a continuous process which shall involve faculty and other concerned stakeholders in central roles. Furthermore, assessment results will directly inform planning and other decision-making activities. (USU Policy Manual, 103.7.4)
Good assessment should focus on outcomes. Do the measures demonstrate that students develop needed competencies and significantly add to their knowledge as a result of attending USU? Evidence that is triangulated from multiple sources is preferred to individual measures. Academic units should have flexibility in formulating their assessment plans—one size does not fit all. Finally, an effective assessment plan should be structured as a process, rather than as a one-off event. Assessment must be an ongoing activity that contributes to institutional improvement.
Consistent with these guidelines, USU has implemented a comprehensive plan for educational assessment. This plan focuses on the following areas:
- Student Attitudes and Perceptions. The Office of Analysis, Assessment, and Accreditation (AAA) conducts annual surveys of freshmen/sophomores, graduating seniors, and graduate students. Comparative surveys, such as the National Survey of Student Engagement, are also administered.
- Early to Mid-Program Assessments. AAA is involved in ongoing analyses to evaluate USU’s freshman orientation program, measure improvements in writing and mathematics skills, and determine mastery of content in general education courses.
- End of Program Assessment. This is the key component of USU’s assessment effort. Academic departments have been given the primary responsibility for evaluating the preparation of their graduates. Each department is expected to have an easily accessible and user-friendly assessment website that shows program learning objectives, the relationship between learning objectives and curriculum, outcomes data from several sources that demonstrate the extent to which students are mastering program objectives, a description of the process by which assessment data are used for decision-making, and examples of program changes made as a result of assessment efforts. AAA assists the departments in this endeavor by reviewing departmental progress, recommending changes, and providing “best practices.”
- Alumni Satisfaction. AAA conducts periodic surveys of alumni. Departments also obtain information from alumni through advisory groups and departmental surveys.
- Employment and/or Employer Satisfaction. AAA conducts surveys of employment and participation in graduate education of recent graduates. At the academic department level, employers are contacted through surveys and/or employer advisory groups to determine the strengths and weaknesses of USU students they have hired.
- Outcomes. The AAA website is a virtual “Factbook” that provides a broad range of information about the University, and the programs that comprise it. Of particular importance is the USU Performance Dashboard, which shows trends in selected areas of institutional performance and serves as a key management information tool for University administrators and the USU Board of Trustees.