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Guidance on Assessment during the COVID-19 Challenge

Assessment can be a challenging process even in the best of circumstances. COVID-19 presents a level of challenge that can make each of us feel overwhelmed both on the personal level and the professional level. While assessment reporting should continue, this is a time that as educators we can exercise creativity and flexibility in meeting our professional responsibilities. Departments have numerous resources available to offer guidance and technical assistance with any part of the programmatic assessment process. But first, we will start with a basic overview of the purpose of assessment.

Framework or Purpose of Assessment:

Assessment is about seeking improvement. Assessment of student performance in a program is not about validating grades, demonstrating perfection, assigning blame, or evaluating faculty performance.  It should only be about the improvement process. It is an opportunity for departments to discuss what faculty can do to help their students attain the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that the same faculty have determined are important for their degree program.  

Critical Importance of Faculty Discussion of Assessment:

Of all activities a faculty member and department perform related to assessment of student learning, the discussion with peers of what the data mean to let it guide decisions for improvement is the single most valuable part of the assessment process.  Without faculty discussion of assessment findings and determination of how to improve performance in the next cycle, the data are of little value to anyone. Faculty can meet virtually to discuss assessment whether in a synchronous or asynchronous mode. Utilize the technology your department is most comfortable with using whether this is a shared Google sheet or a WebEx meeting. These and other tools are valuable means for gathering input.

2020 is an Asterisk Year for the World:

Assessment this year does not have to be perfect. Please allow yourself to make necessary adjustments to “typical” and “normal” with respect to assessment reporting.  The assessment process is still of vital importance, but how we complete the process allows for considerable flexibility.

How to Proceed:

  1. Select the reporting term and data for this cycle.
    1. If you assessed in the fall 2019, your department can collect and report on fall data.
    2. If you planned to assess in the spring, gather data from an existing assignment that supports the SLO and report on this.
    3. Remember, student work is still available for collection and analysis. It may not be the assignment you planned to use for assessment, but other activities and assignments can yield valuable assessment data.
    4. Work with the data that you have available.
  2. Discuss Use of Results among Department Faculty.
    1. Disseminate aggregated data via technology (email or Google drive).
    2. “Meet” virtually, either synchronous or asynchronous, (ex. Hangouts, WebEx, call-in, email, Google sheet/doc) and discuss what the data mean and determine Use of Results to improve student learning.
    3. Consider using a Facilitator and/or Note Taker. IE, CUTLA, and Gen Ed are available to provide meeting facilitation and note taking.  Documenting the conversation through meeting minutes is strong evidence to reviewers that faculty are engaged in the process.
  3. Focus on Improvement
    1. Impacts from COVID-19 on student learning are expected, so document how the data are influenced by it.
    2. All accreditors (SACSCOC, CCNE, ABET, etc.) are aware and expect to see this reflected in our discussions.
    3. Faculty and students faced multiple challenges related to COVID-19. Incorporate these challenges and how you overcame them in the discussion.
    4. Guiding Questions are available from IE, CUTLA, and Gen Ed to assist you with the discussion.
  4. Remember to report.
    1. This year is a record year for our Fifth Year Report to SACSCOC. Again, the report doesn’t need to be perfect, but departments do need to report.
    2. Guiding Questions for COVID-19 discussions are on IE website can help the department frame the discussion on improvement (not perfection) in the face of the COVID-19 challenge.
    3. Assessment Reporting Forms are available on the IE website. 
    4. The due date for programmatic assessment reporting is June 30th. If you need an extension, please reach out to IE at and let us know when you will submit.
    5. Those of us in IE, CUTLA, and Gen Ed are available to support any department that has questions and desires guidance and/or assistance in assessment reporting for this year.

Dr. Angela Bryan, Director of Institutional Effectiveness (IE)

Dr. Claudia Stanny, Director of Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment (CUTLA)

Katie Riesenberg, Director of General Education