Assessing and Designing an Institutional Assessment Strategy



Administrators and faculty at most colleges and universities already engage in a broad array of organizational and administrative activities designed to support and promote the student assessment strategy of their institution. This section of the toolkit is intended to provide users with three different tools for diagnosing their institution's current approach to and support for student assessment, as well as guidelines for designing an organizational and administrative support pattern that works. The three diagnostic tools are:

  • an Institutional Self-assessment of Organizational Patterns,

  • a guide to Conducting an Institutional Case-study, and

  • an instrument for Measuring Campus Climate for Student Assessment.

Using the results of these tools, a set of guidelines for Building Support Systems That Work can be used to design or improve student assessment strategy. The tools are based on a strategy developed using findings from our national study.

The following four sections can be used to develop an institutional assessment strategy. Proceeding through each section will provide an understanding of the components of their current organizational pattern and identifying strategies, organizing patterns, and administrative or management activities in order to design or revise a more successful organizational and administrative strategy to support and promote student assessment.

  1. Getting Started: An Institutional Self-assessment of Organizational Patterns helps users analyze their institution's current student assessment approaches, and their organizational and administrative patterns of support for, assessment management policies and practices related to, academic decision-making uses of, and institutional impacts of student assessment.

    The Inventory of Institutional Support for Student Assessment
    (ISSA, 1999) is a survey instrument that was developed as part of the NCPI Project 5.2 national study. It guides users in assessing their own institution's organizational patterns of student assessment. They can also compare their patterns to those of other similar institutions (see Student Assessment by Differing Institutional Types). Users can then design or improve their institution's organizational and administrative patterns based on these results.

  2. Conducting an Institutional Case Study provides users with a guide for conducting a case study of their own institution. It is designed to help identify and understand how an institution's student assessment strategy and efforts are developed and implemented and how the eight domains (see Conceptual Framework) for student assessment influence the institutional efforts for conducting student assessment. The suggested interview list, interview protocols, and documents to be examined are provided as a suggested guide for collecting information for the case study.

  3. Measuring Campus Climate for Student Assessment helps users gauge faculty and administrator's perceptions of the institution's student assessment effort. The Institutional Climate for Student Assessment (ICSA, 2000) is a survey instrument that was developed as part of NCPI Project 5.2 and can assist user's evaluation of their campus climate for student assessment. This can help identify areas that need special attention in order to implement successfully an institutional student assessment strategy.

  4. Building Support Systems That Work is designed to provide some general guidelines and suggestions for designing an institution's approach to student assessment and their organizational and administrative patterns for supporting and promoting it that are most likely to enhance their use of student assessment data for academic improvement and to assure its positive impact on the institution. Presented in this section are a comprehensive list of student assessment approaches, institution-wide patterns, and organizational / administrative policies and practices that have a positive impact on the use of student assessment data for educational improvement. These findings can be viewed as guidelines to improve organizational and administrative support systems for campus student assessment or they can be used in conjunction with the diagnostic tools (Sections I, II, and III) to design or redesign an institution's student assessment efforts.

  5. Building a Student Assessment Culture is the eventual goal for any institution hoping to promote and support student assessment and its use in educational and faculty-related decisions and its positive impact on faculty teaching, student learning, and campus reputation and image. While building a culture goes beyond tinkering with strategies, leadership, and management policies and practices, these areas do contribute to a more positive comprehensive climate of student assessment that can eventually help to shape the culture.

© 2003, National Center for Postsecondary Improvement, headquartered at the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research.