Assessment is the systematic collection and examination of evidence of student achievement in order to better understand the degree to which students are meeting the outcomes set for them by the University. The Office of Student Learning Assessment provides advice and guidance to faculty and administrators undertaking this essential institutional function. Successful assessment ensures the effective and efficient delivery of educational programs to our students in support of the mission of the University.

The unit of analysis for assessment is always the course, the academic program, or the learning experience. Although it is an evaluative process, it is not an evaluation of instructors, administrators, or individual students. The knowledge, skills, and abilities that students demonstrate provide evidence in answering the question of how well specific learning experiences prepare students to meet the articulated outcomes for those experiences. The answer provides information about what parts of an educational experience should continue and what parts may need adjustment.

The Assessment Cycle

Assessment of student learning is an iterative process, meaning that the steps in the steps in the assessment cycle should be routinely and intentionally undertaken.  Each step in the cycle can and should inform the next step and each full cycle should reflect the insights gained from previous cycles. One way of understanding the assessment cycle is through a simple, but not necessarily easy, four step process.

Use the links to the left to explore guidelines and resources to help you in each step of the assessment cycle.

The Vocabulary of Assessment

Unfortunately, there is no standardized dictionary of terms used in the assessment process.  Oftentimes the jargon words of assessment, like outcomes, goals, and objectives, are used interchangeably in casual conversation, but take on more distinct meanings in the assessment process.  The following list of definitions is offered to clarify and unify the vocabulary of assessment at Drew.


“The 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 student learning matches our expectations
  • Using the resulting information to understanding and improve student learning”


“Goals state what you, your colleagues, or your college aim to achieve. They can describe aims outside the teaching and learning process as well as within it”

Objectives“…the tasks to be accomplished to achieve the goal – the means to the end, the process leading to the outcome”

Outcomes “…the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits of mind that students take with them from a learning experience”

Suskie, L. (2009). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Drew University is accredited through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), one of the regional accrediting bodies authorized by the US Department of Education.  Being accredited means that Drew meets established standards for quality and efficacy in a way that is regularly reviewed by peers and experts in the field of higher education.

MSCHE standards include several requirements related to assessment of student learning.  Specifically the Standards for Accreditation specifically require that “assessment of student learning and achievement demonstrates that the institution’s students have accomplished educational goals consistent with their program of study, degree level, the institution’s mission, and appropriate expectations for institutions of higher education.

“To meet this standard, MSCHE requires that the University meet the following criteria:

  1. Clearly stated educational goals at the institution and degree/program levels, which are interrelated with one another, with relevant educational experiences, and with the institution’s mission;
  2. Organized and systematic assessments, conducted by faculty and/or appropriate professionals, evaluating the extent of student achievement of institutional and degree/program goals. Institutions should:
    1. define meaningful curricular goals with defensible standards for evaluating whether students are achieving those goals;
    2. articulate how they prepare students in a manner consistent with their mission for successful careers, meaningful lives, and, where appropriate, further education. ey should collect and provide data on the extent to which they are meeting these goals;
    3. support and sustain assessment of student achievement and communicate the results of this assessment to stakeholders;
  3. Consideration and use of assessment results for the improvement of educational effectiveness. Consistent with the institution’s mission, such uses include some combination of the following:
    1. assisting students in improving their learning;
    2. improving pedagogy and curriculum;
    3. reviewing and revising academic programs and support services;
    4. planning, conducting, and supporting a range of professional development activities;
    5. planning and budgeting for the provision of academic programs and services;
    6. informing appropriate constituents about the institution and its programs;
    7. improving key indicators of student success, such as retention, graduation, transfer, and placement rates;
    8. implementing other processes and procedures designed to improve educational programs and services;
  4. If applicable, adequate and appropriate institutional review and approval of assessment services designed, delivered, or assessed by third-party providers; and
  5. Periodic assessment of the effectiveness of assessment processes utilized by the institution for the improvement of educational effectiveness.