Assessment Basics

What is Assessment?

Assessment is a systematic process of gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine the extent to which outcomes meet establish expectations (Suskie, 2004).

At Georgia Tech the process includes monitoring and improving the academic, administrative and student support structure that leads to the continuous quality improvement of the Institute’s academic programs and administrative and student support services.

Suskie, L. (Ed.). (2004) Assessing student learning a common sense guide. San Francisco, CA:Jossey-Bass.


GT Approach to Meaningful Outcomes Assessment

The Institute’s approach to meaningful outcomes assessment consists of the following five steps.

  1. Specify expected outcomes that are aligned with program goals, strategic priorities, and the Institute’s mission.
  2. Identify appropriate measures (i.e., direct/indirect where appropriate) to assess the outcome.
  3. Establish acceptable targets for performance
  4. Collect, analyze, review and report results
  5. Use results to improve outcome

The five steps do not represent a “once-and-done” process, but a continuous cycle in which assessment results are used to support sustainable improvements.  Following is a visual model of the Institute’s approach to meaningful outcomes assessment.

GT Approach to Meaningful Outcomes Assessment
GT Approach to Meaningful Outcomes Assessment


GT Academic Effectiveness Framework for Meaningful Outcomes Assessment

The assessment process at Georgia Tech is mission-driven. The Institute’s mission informs the strategic priorities of the institution (Creating the Next in Education, Academic Masterplan, Institute Strategic Plan).  College/school/unit strategic initiatives are influenced by and designed to help move the Institute closer to the realization of the mission and strategic priorities.  The strategic plans at the college/school/unit level are also influenced by internal and external stakeholders to include but not limited to employers of GT graduates, regional and specialized accrediting bodies, etc.  The Institute’s approach to meaningful outcomes assessment is then used as a tool to monitor progress in a spirit of continuous improvement which drives academic effectiveness.

Following is a visual representation of GT Academic Effectiveness Framework for Meaningful Outcomes Assessment.

GT Academic Effectiveness Framework for Meaningful Outcomes Assessment
GT Academic Effectiveness Framework for Meaningful Outcomes Assessment


Student Learning Assessment

Student learning assessment is an ongoing process of :

  • Establishing clear, measurable expected outcomes of student learning.
  • Ensuring that students have sufficient opportunities to achieve those outcomes
  • Systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well students learning matches our expectations.
  • Using the resulting information to understand and improve student learning.

Suskie, L. (Ed.). (2004) Assessing student learning a common sense guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Components of Student Learning Assessment

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment – http://www.learningoutcomeassessment.org/TFcomponents.htm


Definition of Key Assessment Terms

  • Mission Statement – A statement that describes your reason for existence. It should address who you are, what you do, and who you do it for.
    E.g., – The mission of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech is “to educate and prepare students to reach the forefront of leadership in the fields of biomedical engineering and to impact health care significantly by assembling a world-class faculty who shape the cutting edge of research in key biomedical areas.”
    https://www.bme.gatech.edu/bme/about-wallace-h-coulter-department-biomedical-engineering
  • Goal – A statement of what your college/school/program/department aims to accomplish in alignment with your mission.
  • Outcome – A statement that refers to a destination rather than the path taken to get there (i.e., the end rather than the means).
  • Program Level Student Learning Outcome – Specified knowledge, skills, abilities or attitudes that students are expected to attain by the end of a program of study.
  • Direct Measure –  A measure that is tangible, visible, self-explanatory, and provides compelling evidence of exactly what students have learned. The strength of this measure lies in the fact that it requires students to demonstrate what they have learned in a way that is observable and measurable.
    E.g., – capstone projects, portfolios, standardized tests, pre and post-test, written work, performances, presentations, etc.
  • Indirect Measure – A measure that is based upon a report of the perceived extent or value of learning experiences.  This measure helps to capture the perceptions of your constituents. Note:  Indirect measures alone are not sufficient/appropriate for assessing student learning.  When they are used, they should accompany direct measures of student learning.
    E.g., – student rating of instruction, exit interviews, focus groups, alumni surveys, etc.
  • Target for Performance – The expected level of performance or the benchmark indicator for success. Programs/departments can use their own data to benchmark performance or consider benchmarking against aspirational peers or national sources.
  • Actual Result – A descriptive summary of the data collected at the measure level in alignment with the outcome.  The summary should include where appropriate the specific percentage and sample size in alignment with the target for performance.
  • Continuous Improvement Action Plan – A summary of what will be done to enhance/improve the outcome.  It should include who will do what by when and how.