How Accreditation Influences Assessment

How Accreditation Influences Assessment

How Accreditation Influences Assessment

How Accreditation Influences Assessment


This is the 113th issue of the quarterly journal "New Directions for Higher Education,"


This chapter examines what types of student learning
outcomes are amendable to assessment for the purposes
of accreditation.

Susan R. Hatfield

Like legislators, state higher education executive offices, the general public, and students themselves, regional and professional accrediting agencies have taken a keen interest in student learning. It is no longer enough for universities and departments to assert that the educational process has resulted in student learning. Instead, accrediting agencies are asking for documentation that supports the assertion that students have indeed achieved the desired learning goals and, just as important, an indication of the steps to be taken to close any gaps between departmental goals and student performance. While universitywide efforts might be useful in assessing the overall success of the institution in achieving its goals, student learning must be assessed at the department or program level.

Making Choices about Assessing Learning

Departments and programs undertaking an accreditation self-study focusing on student learning must (1) define the learning goals for their students, (2) identify how those outcomes are facilitated through the curriculum and structured learning experiences, and (3) design and implement assessment processes and methods. The department or program must have identified specific learning goals for their students, promoted those goals through a set of specifically designed learning activities, and made conscious decisions as to how those goals can be best measured.

Setting Goals. In her study of 440 reports gathered between 1993 and 1995, Lopez (1996) from the North Central Association of Colleges and . . .

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