During the 2014–2015 academic year, Syracuse University began an institution‐wide initiative to standardize assessment processes and prepare for the upcoming Middle States self-study. The Associate Provost for Academic Affairs researched best practices, SU’s assessment needs, and regional and specialized accreditation requirements to develop processes and templates that would guide schools and colleges, co‐curricular programs/units, and functional areas in creating and implementing assessment and action plans (AAP).
Over the past four years, the Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment assessment working team has been consulting with and providing support and resources to academic programs, departments, and units as they develop and implement assessment and action plans (AAP). During the 2016–2017 academic year, assessment and action plans were developed, and most implemented, by 412 academic programs, 38 co-curricular programs/units, and 70 functional areas. One hundred percent engagement in the process is expected.
Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Highlights
1991: SU adopts mission and vision statements that prioritize teaching, research, and student learning.
1992: Chancellor Shaw calls for the establishment of an assessment effort to identify programs that are superior in quality and those that need improvement.
1992–1993: Expert consultants, seminars, newsletters, and workshops are sponsored by the Assessment Coordinating Committee to provide information and guidance to faculty.
1993–1995: Assessment grants are provided to individual faculty members for the purpose of assessing student learning in their courses.
1995–1997: Assessment of student learning is broadened to be the responsibility of groups of faculty and entire programs and “block grants” are provided to assist these efforts.
1996–1997: “Pilot” programs identify expected student learning outcomes allowing schools and colleges to broaden their assessment horizons and experiment with the use of various assessment measures.
1997: Vice Chancellor Vincow revises the guidelines for the assessment initiative, proposing 16 learning outcomes and 4 levels of assessment including individual courses, majors, programs, and all-university baccalaureate outcomes. Vincow also concludes that assessment should not be conducted for the sole purpose of accountability reporting, but for determining if Syracuse University is meeting the specifications of the formative student learning outcomes.
1997: The All-University Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Committee (AUSLOAC) systematically considers learning goals and student achievement and facilitates a campus discussion concerning appropriate learning outcomes based on courses, majors, and minors within schools and colleges.
2001: The University Assessment Council (UAC) is formed to provide further coordination of campus efforts to enhance learning outcomes. The Council expands its operation beyond undergraduate assessment to include graduate student learning and research and develops strategies for schools and colleges to meet accreditation requirements, as well as to develop and revise mission statements and assessment plans for individual units.
2006: The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA) becomes the primary agency for coordination of university-wide assessment and develops assessment templates and guidelines. Schools/colleges are asked to prepare assessment plans incorporating direct measures to document student learning outcomes.
2007–2012: OIRA staff meet at least annually with school/college assessment coordinators to provide feedback on assessment plans and the implementation of those plans.
2014–2015: An institution‐wide initiative begins to standardize assessment processes and prepare for the upcoming Middle States self-study. Processes and templates are developed to guide schools and colleges, as well as co‐curricular and functional areas, in creating and implementing assessment and action plans. Implementing assessment and action plans to inform decision-making is emphasized.
2014–2016: The Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment initiative’s assessment working team consults with and provides support and resources to academic programs, departments, and units as they develop and implement assessment and action plans.
2015–2016: Over 460 assessment and action plans are received by 87% of the academic programs, 86% of the co-curricular programs, and 82% of the functional areas. One hundred percent engagement in the process is expected.
2016–2017: 99% of the University’s academic programs, co-curricular programs/units, and functional areas provide an annual progress report documenting assessment activities during the 2016–17 academic year. Of the 410 active academic programs, faculty from 86% of them implement assessment and action plans. Most of the remaining programs have not implemented their plans as they are either new, under review, closing, or have very low/no enrollment during the 2016–17 academic year
Assessment Organizations on Campus
Assessment of student learning outcomes has been an institutional focus of Syracuse University since 1991 when the University’s mission prioritized teaching, research, and student learning. Different units and committees have worked at different times and in different capacities to assess the effectiveness of teaching and learning at the University:
- Assessment Coordination Committee (ACC, 1991–1997) sponsored expert consultants, seminars, newsletters, and workshops focused on assessment for faculty.
- All-University Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Committee (AUSLOAC, 1997‐2001) systematically considered learning goals and student achievement across the schools/colleges and facilitated campus discussion for the first time in SU history.
- University Assessment Committee (UAC, 2001–2006) provided further coordination of campus efforts to enhance learning outcomes, expanded beyond undergraduate assessment to include graduate student learning, and offered a forum for sharing best practices and implementation issues.
- Center for Support of Teaching and Learning (CSTL, 1997–2006) and Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA, 2006–present) were formed, in part, to provide a central location for the coordination of university-wide assessment.
- Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment (IEA, 2014–present) was instituted as a campus-wide effort coordinated by the office of the Associate Provost, Academic Programs for continual improvement of the student experience at Syracuse University. IEA’s assessment working team consults with and provides support and resources to academic programs, departments, and units as they develop and implement assessment and action plans
- The University Assessment and Accreditation Committee (UAAC, 2015–present) is comprised of members representing the schools, colleges, and divisions directly responsible for the student learning experience at Syracuse University. The UAAC is responsible for interpreting Middle States accreditation standards and policy and advising the University, faculty, and administrative leaders on assessment and accreditation activities. The committee provides a forum for the ongoing monitoring of the University’s student learning assessment and accreditation initiatives, and its members seek to increase awareness within their respective areas of how assessment should be used to improve teaching/learning and institutional processes.