Institutions and educators across the globe consistently attempt to meet accreditation requirements. These requirements, set forth by accrediting bodies, ask institutions to demonstrate the continuous improvement of program and educational quality, among other things.
Specifically, accrediting bodies ask schools to demonstrate that they have a systematic process of evaluating and reviewing student learning outcomes with the purpose of implementing evidence-based interventions that result in the aforementioned improvement of program and educational quality.
This systematic process is referred to as learning outcomes assessment. Let’s delve deeper into the characteristics and importance of deploying a learning outcomes assessment process.
The Learning Outcomes Assessment Process
The learning outcomes assessment process will generally include the following five steps:
Define learning goals and outcomes: identify specific topics or skills that will be taught to students. In addition, you must also determine how your students will meet the learning goals by demonstrating knowledge and proficiency in the selected topics and skills.
Align goals with program curriculum: align specific learning goals with the timing and place where you expect professors to teach and students to demonstrate the knowledge and skills.
Assess student learning and outcomes: assess student knowledge and skill proficiency with the implementation of a learning outcomes assessment method or tool.
Collect and analyze outcome data: collect, review, and analyze student learning outcomes assessment data in order to draw conclusions.
Use conclusions to improve program and educational quality: use results and conclusions to implement evidence-based interventions to improve program and educational quality. This step is perhaps the most important step of the learning outcomes assessment process as it allows you to close the loop.
Now that you’ve taken a closer look at the learning outcomes assessment process, let’s discuss the importance of incorporating this process into your academic programs.
The Importance of Learning Outcomes Assessment
First and foremost, the implementation of a learning outcomes assessment process is meant to drive continuous improvement to program and educational quality. Your program’s ability to meet student needs in developing relevant knowledge and skills can be greatly aided by the learning outcomes assessment process.
Secondly, learning outcomes assessment is a critical aspect of the accreditation process. Like mentioned before, accrediting bodies place great importance on an institutions ability to demonstrate a systematic process of collecting data, drawing conclusions, and implementing evidence-based interventions is in place.
To this point, let’s look at learning outcomes assessment standards from the following three accrediting bodies: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), and the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE).
AACSB Standard 8
“The school uses well-documented, systematic processes for determining and revising degree program learning goals; designing, delivering, and improving degree program curricula to achieve learning goals; and demonstrating that degree program learning goals have been met.”
ACBSP Standard 4
“Business schools and programs must have an outcomes assessment program with documentation of the results and evidence that the results are being used for the development and improvement of the institution’s academic programs. Each business program is responsible for developing its own outcomes assessment program.”
IACBE Principle 1
“Academic quality in business programs is evaluated through the assessment of the academic business unit’s intended student learning outcomes. This requires the academic business unit to have developed and fully implemented an outcomes assessment process. This process includes an outcomes assessment plan for its new business programs, the identification of necessary changes and improvements as a result of implementing the plan, the integration of those changes into its strategic planning process, and the documentation of realized outcomes.”
As the highlighted sections in each standard indicates, all three accrediting bodies emphasize the capturing and operationalizing of data around learning outcomes with the goal of improving program quality and student learning. The learning outcomes assessment process accomplishes just that.
So what is the first step in demonstrating your academic programs are deploying effective learning outcomes assessment processes to meet accreditation standards? To discover the first step and explore ways to improve your program’s learning outcome assessment process, read our recent post on program evaluation or access your free eBook – The Ultimate Guide to Learning Outcomes Assessment.