Assessment Plans

At the start of each new fiscal year, each administrative unit develops a plan for assessment during the upcoming year. An assessment plan begins with a statement of the unit’s mission, goals and objectives. For objectives to be assessed during the year, the means of assessment and criteria for success must also be specified, as well as a description of how the results of the assessment are envisioned to be used to improve the program, services or operations of the unit.

Assessment plans must be measureable, meaningful and manageable. In any given year units should assess the number of objectives that seems reasonable and appropriate for the unit considering the level of operations and staffing. It is important to remember that not every objective must be assessed every year. It is wise to outline assessment plans for more objectives than are intended to be assessed in case circumstances outside the unit’s control prevent a unit from completing assessment of an objective.

A standard template is provided for assessment plans. (See Appendix A.) The template is designed to accommodate three goals and three objectives per goal; however, units may adjust these Microsoft Word documents to fit their number of goals and objectives.

The components of the assessment plan are:

Objective

(Intended Outcome)

More specifically, what is one thing you hope to achieve to help you meet your goal?

Means of Assessment

(Tools & Measures)

What will you do to collect data or evidence to show how well you have achieved the intended outcome?

Criteria for Success

At what point will you know how well you have attained your intended outcome? What are your targets or thresholds?  What do you hope to learn by this assessment?

Anticipated Use of Results

How do you anticipate using the results to drive program improvement?


Critical to good assessment is the determination of appropriate and adequate means of assessment, as well as criteria for success.


 

Description

Purpose

Tools & Methods

Measure the success of each objective

Gather evidence related to the anticipated outcome of the objective

Criteria for Success

Define success for each objective

Provide useful information regarding the achievement of expected results or levels of performance



Means of Assessment and Data Collection

Good assessment uses multiple means of assessment for a given objective. Direct assessment is based on an analysis of data collected (for example, web analytics). Indirect assessment is based on an analysis of reported perceptions about outcomes (for example, satisfaction survey results). Direct assessment is preferable to indirect; therefore, it is suggested that each objective have at least one direct method of assessment.

It is helpful to determine a schedule for data collection at the time the assessment plan is created. What data will be collected; where the data will be collected; when the data will be collected; and who is responsible for collecting the data. Data can be collected as soon as it becomes available even if the analysis of the data will take place later in the year. If the same data are being collected in multiple years, collect the data at the same time each year to ensure its integrity and validity.

Only collect data that is useful and will provide information that can help to improve the program or service. Do not collect unnecessary data.

Assessment focuses on outcomes, not output. Output data will tell you how much/how many (e.g., numbers served or documents processed). Outcome data provide more information that can be used to improve programs and services (e.g., increased skills or changed behavior or improved conditions or increased satisfaction or efficiency).

Criteria for Success

The criteria for success should have a specific target number that indicates the level of accomplishment. This can include a number or percentage of people, activities or items, a level of proficiency or a combination of the two. State the criteria in terms of reasonable percentages, percentiles, averages or other quantitative measures. For example,

  • Students wait time for registration will decrease 20%
  • At least 75% of the students living in the resident halls will report a level of satisfaction with the overall experience at a 3 (satisfactory) or above on a 5 point scale

Tips for Completing Assessment Plans

Some helpful tips for completing assessment plans:

  • Be realistic, not overly ambitious, in outlining your assessment plan.
  • Involve all members of your staff in designing, implementing and carrying out the assessment process. Staff participation and ownership are key to the success of an administrative assessment plan.
  • Avoid words such as “improve” or “enhance” in your goals and objectives unless you have a clear baseline and target for the change.
  • Be sure that your goals and objectives are not tasks. It is very difficult to assess a task. Why is it important to you to complete a certain task? That is likely your objective!
  • Answer the “thought questions” provided on the template. These questions have been designed to help you think through the assessment process—they will guide you.
  • Be specific, e.g., what assessment data will you collect? How?
  • Provide at least one direct measure for each objective being assessed.
  • Write clearly and concisely. Do not use jargon or professional terms that someone outside your area of expertise will not understand.
  • If you cannot specifically describe how the findings from your assessment activities can be used to improve your program, services or operations, you should reconsider your proposed means of assessment.
  • Close the loop! If you collected baseline data in the previous year or otherwise did not bring your assessment activities to conclusion, i.e., showing the results of any modifications made, be sure to include this objective again in your plan.

Occasionally, an assessment plan may need to change mid-year due to changing circumstances. This notation and the rationale should be made clear in the assessment report submitted at the end of the year.