Components of Program Assessment

Essential Components of Program Assessment

    Essential Components of Program Assessment

    1. Statement of Mission: Indicates the purpose for which the unit/department exists.

    2. Outcomes: Programs, instructional and non-instructional, assess to what degree the program is accomplishing its intended purpose (statement of mission) through outcomes assessment. Programs indicate (outcomes) and assess the “intended” affect the program should have on those the program serve.

    Types of Outcomes

    Student Learning Outcome
    A student learning outcome describes what a student should know, think, or be able to do as a result of exposure to content in some form (e.g., academic program, workshops or processes, etc.). “Learning outcome statements are anchored in verbs that identify the actions, behaviors, dispositions, and ways of thinking or knowing that students should be able to demonstrate” (Maki, 2004, p. 61).
    Program Outcome
    “Program outcomes illustrate what you want your program to do. These outcomes differ from learning outcomes in that you discuss what it is that you want your program to accomplish” (Bresciani, M.J., n.d., p. 3). Program outcomes assesses the effectiveness of the operations of your program.
    Process Outcomes
    Process outcomes focus on activities, tasks, or “to-do” items. That is, what the program or office will do to accomplish an outcome (e.g., establish a center for learning, develop a workshop schedule, hold workshops, etc). Process outcomes are NOT assessment outcomes and furthermore, not measureable. The assessment or institutional effectiveness report should not include outcomes that are not measureable.
    3. Assessment Instrument: The assessment instrument is the tool used to assess the outcome and determine that the benchmark or criterion has been achieved.

    Types of Assessment Instruments

    Direct Assessment Instruments
    Direct assessment instruments assess student’s actual learning and require a demonstration of their achievement (Allen, 2004). Student learning outcomes must be assessed using at least one direct assessment. Examples: course-embedded assessment, standardized exams, rubrics, etc.
    Indirect Assessment Instruments
    Indirect assessment instruments measure student perception of learning and not actual learning. Examples: survey, focus group, etc.
    4. Performance Criteria/Benchmark (Criterion for Success): The standard on which a judgment or decision may be based (Merriam Webster, n.d.). This statement indicates the target that determines the outcome has been achieved (e.g., Students will score at the “meet expectations” level or higher in each category on the rubric; 75 percent of all work orders will be completed within 7-10 business days).

    5. Results: Indicates if the program met the desired criterion and delineates the results achieved on the assessment instrument. The narrative should be inclusive of how many students or items were assessed, when it was assessed, and the complete results of the assessment. In addition, where applicable, trend data should also be included.

    6. Use of Results or Action Plan: Describes how the unit/department will improve its program based on the assessment results.

    7. Closing the Loop/Follow-Up: “Closing the Loop refers to a wide variety of outcomes and actions that result from an institution’s review and consideration of outcomes assessment data. Critical to this process is that these revisions are made on the basis of qualitative and quantitative data that are gathered systematically, not on the basis of anecdotal evidence or intuition” (California State University Northridge, n.d.). “It encompasses analyzing results from outcome assessments, using results to make changes to improve student learning, and re-assessing outcomes in order to determine the effect those changes had on student learning” Burrack, n.d.).


    Allen, M. J. (2004). Assessing academic programs in higher education. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.

    Bresciani, M.J., (n.d.). Writing measurable and meaningful outcomes. Retrieved from, November 12, 2013.

    Maki, P. L. (2004). Assessing for learning: Building a sustainable commitment across the institution. Stylus: Sterling, VA.