Glossary of Terms
Appointing officer - individual responsible for personnel and program decisions.
Assessment - the process of seeking, evaluating, reflecting upon data, and making changes in order to foster continuous improvement of student academic learning and achievement. Assessment generally means "measurement," but also refers to a systematic cycle of collecting and reviewing information about strategic planning or student outcomes. The complete cycle involves: clearly stating expected outcomes, offering learning/student experiences or engaging in an activity/intervention, measuring the extent to which expected outcomes have been achieved, and using the evidence collected to improve teaching/learning, programs, or processes.
Assessment Plan - generally refers to an outline of data collection and analysis procedures; typically refers to student outcomes assessment but may also be used in reference to strategic planning.
- For student outcomes assessment, the assessment plan consists of: the student outcomes and objectives that will be assessed, the instruments and metrics to be used for collecting and analyzing data, and an implementation timeline.
- For strategic planning assessment, the assessment plan describes the measurable objectives and metrics that will be used to evaluate progress toward achieving strategic plan outcomes, including an implementation timeline.
Assessment report - the formal report on student outcomes submitted for review by administrators and the University Assessment Committee (UAC); now replaced by data reporting on each Measures in GVAssess.
Baseline - describes the status of each objective, as measured by the selected metric, when the plan is first launched and before any new strategies or actions are deployed. Thereafter, specific results achieved during the period of plan implementation are compared with the baseline to determine the direction and extent of changes. Baselines may be defined in terms of an average status (or mean) over time or in terms of other measures.
Benchmarks - specific performance level used for comparison; these may be internal (e.g. using past results as a baseline) or external (e.g., using results from another institution or from an accrediting body)
Co-curricular - programs and initiatives that enhance student learning inside and outside the classroom; these programs and initiatives are designed with specific outcomes.
Competencies and proficiencies - terms sometimes used to describe desirable learning outcomes
Curriculum Map - A matrix representation of a program's learning outcomes that shows where they are taught/experienced, and to what extent they are taught/experienced, within the program.
Emphasis - area of study within a program with at least one unique learning outcome
Evaluation - generally refers to a product-oriented, comparative, or prescriptive process aimed at making an informed judgment about the extent to which a program/unit is achieving its intended outcomes and/or the quality or worth of a program. While evaluation may include assessment of student learning, its broader scope may also take additional factors, such as faculty or program/unit outcomes, into consideration.
Goals - what you aim to achieve; goals are action-oriented, whereas outcomes define the desired state (video explanation). Examples:
- Goal statement: "To provide students with an understanding of American and world politics and exposure to each of the subfields of political science"
- Outcome statements: "Students have an understanding of American politics," "Students have an understanding of world politics," and "Students are knowledgeable about each of the subfields of political science"
Learning goals - describe how students will be different because of a learning experience; see Goals
Learning outcomes - describe the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits of mind that students take with them from a learning experience; see Outcomes
Measure - an assessment instrument or metric together with process details (e.g., assessment location, timeline, threshold, target, baseline) used to assess the status of a stated objective. See the measures grab bag page for examples. (video explanation)
- Direct measure - an assessment based on an evaluation of an observable performance (e.g., written exams, term papers, presentations, recitals, field evaluations, etc.)
- Indirect measure - an assessment based on secondary sources such as self-report or perceptions of learning (e.g., alumni surveys, focus group interviews, satisfaction surveys, etc.)
Objectives - measurable statements of specific results to be achieved en route to the accomplishment of an outcome; objectives state results, not activities. Objectives are used to describe measurable aspects of an outcome which, when met, would constitute partial achievement of the outcome. (video explanation)
- Academic objective (example): Students will be able to write a research paper, including appropriately documented citations that could be submitted for review to a regional professional conference.
- Co-curricular objective (example): Two new employer networking events will be developed, resulting in a 10% increase of student attendance at such events by 2018.
Outcomes - describe the end-result of a credential, program, activity, or service; outcomes are normally too broad to be measured all at once, so objectives are used to define measurable aspects of the outcome that can be assessed.
- Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs), used for academic programs, define the fundamental competencies that students should know or be able to demonstrate upon completion of a credential (major, emphasis, certificate program, etc.). Example: Students can write appropriate documents for the discipline.
- Student Centered Outcomes (SCOs), used for co-curricular programs and strategic plans, are the measurable outcomes arising from intentionally designed activities, programs, and services that foster and support student success outside of the classroom environment. Example: Students will have multiple means for accessing career planning information
- Student Outcome is the general term used to refer to both SLOs and SCOs.
Performance indicators - quantitative measures of overall student performance
Reliability - the consistency of an instrument, either between raters (inter-rater reliability) or across multiple evaluations by the same rater (intra-rater reliability)
Rubric - a guide that explicitly states the criteria and standards for assessing an objective. The traits are separately named, and each trait is evaluated from high to low, including descriptions of each level of rating.
Self Study - the formal reporting focusing on unit function and performance: a snapshot of where your program is right now
Strategic Plan - future plan: vision, mission, values, goals, objectives, measures, timeline, responsible party
Target - the desired or aspirational level of performance or achievement
Threshold - the minimum acceptable level for a measure
Unit - smallest academic organization recognized by university budgeting
Validity - the extent to which an instrument measures what it is intended to measure; see the UAC statement on course grades