Guiding Principles for Academic Assessment

Assessment is a vital factor in the cycle of teaching and learning, one that contributes toward improving and increasing the value of education that students receive at PLU. Ongoing and thoughtful documentation and interpretation of the results of teaching and learning has proven to help faculty teach more effectively and consistently across the University. This cumulative process, and the knowledge for meaningful improvement that we gain by it, functions best on a campus where teaching and learning is held in high regard. In such a setting, assessment assists faculty in supporting a shared vision of education, and in meeting deeper responsibilities and obligations to our students, to our stakeholders and to the public.

1. Learning is a complex process.

Assessment is effective when it recognizes and accounts for the complexity of the teaching and learning process. Learning is multidimensional, and assessment should be as well. In order to present a more robust illustration of learning, assessment should reflect the levels of knowledge, abilities and educational experiences of students and their learning conditions, as well as demonstrate clear respect for the disciplinary distinctions present on a Liberal Arts Campus.

2. Assessment is goal oriented.

University mission, disciplinary specificities, course design and students’ professional and personal goals all contribute towards educational goals and outcomes. Having clear goals and outcomes set as cornerstones at the beginning of the assessment process can assist faculty in articulating how their Department meets student learning goals. When clarity is lacking, assessment can, conversely, identify how and where programs might improve.

3. Student learning is a campus-wide responsibility.

Accounting for the quality and value of undergraduate education is foundational to an institution’s decisions about many factors, including general education, personnel and mission. Faculty play a critical role in the assessment process, and faculty benefit when they have the support of representatives across the campus community for the assessment process itself and for the time that it takes to do assessment well. Under the best of circumstances, assessment is collaborative, with a wide aim to understand the multiple components involved in student learning including libraries, technology centers and writing labs, to name a few.

Jan Lewis, PhD, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Programs and Professor of Education
Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen, PhD, Associate Professor of Early and Medieval Christian History

Source: Trudy W. Banta et. al., Assessment in Practice: Putting Principles to Work on College Campuses (San Francisco, Jossey-Bass: 2016): 1-68.

Questions or comments?
Please contact the Office of the Provost (253)535-7126 or