Guidelines for Program Assessment: Interpret and Report

How and when do you interpret and report assessment results to your audiences?

When developing an assessment plan for the first time, it is difficult to envision what the assessment results might be or what course of action they might suggest. Nevertheless, it is an important part of planning to envision sitting before that curriculum committee, that faculty development committee, or a group of high school counselors with your assessment data in hand. Using the best principles of active learning, how can you engage them in analysis and reflection of the meaning and implications of the assessment to them? "

Assessment data has multiple audiences, so think through presenting the data and interpreting the results to more than one audience." (NCTLA)

If necessary, go back to step two (Audiences). Who were the audiences you identified? How might the results of assessment best be presented to each audience? How could you best present your case to your audiences? How do you interpret the data? What do the data suggest your program needs?

The first example goal identifying messages and media (detailed in step two, "Audiences"), assumes an accrediting association as the audience. This example shows how you might interpret your data for that audience:

Goal The student will clearly and effectively communicate knowledge both orally and in writing in a manner appropriate to the relevant audience.
Audience Accrediting association team of visitors.
Message While students demonstrate knowledge of oral and written communications in writing and speech courses, they have difficulty applying principles in the various disciplines outside of writing and speech.
Medium Self-study and in meetings with the visitation team.
Interpretation appropriate to audience We need to consider alternate or additional learning experiences to enable our students to attain the goals.

Each goal and each audience should be considered when evaluating the results of assessment. The feedback loop is one of the most important steps in the assessment process. It assures that you are not doing "busywork" but are communicating your needs, your successes, and your values to your audiences.

  • Does your plan identify what kind of assessment will be used for each goal?
  • Are specific assessments identified upon admission, at key midpoints, and at program completion?
  • Are assessments used at admissions directly at the same educational goals as those used prior to graduation?
  • Does each assessment have a specific feedback loop to a key audience?
  • Has time been identified for the audience to receive the assessment information that is optimum for improved decision-making and communication?
  • Has the form of communication been identified for reaching a diverse audience, ranging from innovators to those resistant to change?
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