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Skidmore College
Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment at Skidmore College

When I hear "outcomes assessment," I think of an industrial process that leads to "products." Education is not so easily described, especially a liberal education. Is this the only way to think of assessment?

If terms such as "outcomes assessment," "learning outcomes," and "objectives" strike you as so much jargon, try thinking of the key questions that you want to learn about the effectiveness of your program or how well your students are doing. For example, are you concerned about whether you have been successful in establishing appropriate criteria for your students so that they meet your high expectations for them? Finding some way to make those criteria explicit for your students so that they understand what you expect of them is, essentially, the same as determining the "learning outcomes" for your students.

Not everything may be easily quantifiable, so your observations of your students' work can also serve as assessments, even when these are descriptive in nature. The main task, then, is to be able to present your conclusions to your colleagues so that they can join in meaningful conversations about what will be necessary to continue improving your program and your students' abilities to learn.