Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

A Model for Using a Capstone Experience as One Method of Assessment of an Information Systems Degree Program

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

A Model for Using a Capstone Experience as One Method of Assessment of an Information Systems Degree Program

Article excerpt


Assessment is an important and integral part of any information systems program and it is what we do as faculty members in each course that we teach. Assessment, however, is more than evaluating student performance in a course or even evaluating how well a course meets its intended objectives; the macro view of assessment critiques how well a program achieves its stated student learning outcomes.

According to Rogers(2003), the primary question program level outcomes assessment must answer is "Can students demonstrate the ability to perform at an acceptable level?" and formal program assessment is a means through which evidence is provided that students are able to demonstrate "knowledge or skill directly linked to specific program outcomes"(Rogers, 2003 pp. 8).

The assessment process as well as assessment results have important implications for curriculum development, classroom instruction and program improvement. The primary aim of assessment is to foster learning of worthwhile academic content by all students(Wolf, Bixby, Glenn, & Gardner, 1991). Assessment results help to determine how well a program is meeting its instructional goals and help to identify where alterations to the curriculum or instructional practice might need to be made. According to McGinnis and Devlin(2002) and reported by the Centre for the Study of Higher Education in Australia(2003), "The relationship between assessment practices and the overall quality of teaching and learning is often underestimated, yet assessment requirements and the clarity of assessment criteria and standards significantly influence the effectiveness of student learning. Carefully designed assessment contributes directly to the way students approach their study and therefore contributes indirectly, but powerfully, to the quality of their learning"(pp. 1). They go on to say that assessment often defines the curriculum for students so is a potent strategic tool when carried out properly. Poorly designed assessment they state, "has the potential to hinder learning or stifle curriculum innovation" (pp. 1). The American Association for Higher Education identified nine principles of good assessment. True assessment begins with educational values driving what we choose to assess and how we choose to perform assessment and it is through assessment that we meet our responsibilities to our students and the public(AAHE, 1991). Summarily, it can be stated that assessment, when done systematically and comprehensively, becomes the driving force behind program improvement, the ultimate goal of an instructional program.

Formal documentation of the implementation of assessment plans is part of the work of every program of higher education. This is because assessment has become a driving force in the accreditation review process as accreditation has moved away from measurements of institutional capacity to evaluation of institutional quality (Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions, 2004). The new standards of quality look beyond capacity to assessing congruence between mission, learning goals, curricular offerings and student outcomes. This requires institutions to use student learning data as part of their self-reflection report and to demonstrate how they use that data to improve their educational programs(Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions, 2004). This trend is being emphasized by all accrediting bodies including those that accredit colleges/universities and those that accredit specific programs within a college or university. In 2001, the Accrediting Board of Engineering Technologies(known as ABET) became the recognized agency for evaluating and accrediting information systems programs. Their review process includes an examination of eight standards, the first of which focuses on a program's assessment practices.

Specifically the intent of the standard states that, "The program has documented educational objectives that are consistent with the mission of the institution. …

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