Developing Program Assessment Plans
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Program assessment “focuses on assessing student learning and experience to determine whether students have acquired the skills, knowledge, and competencies associated with their program of study” (Stassen et al., 2001: 7).


How do I develop a Program Assessment Plan?


The university/college commonly provides guidelines for academic units to use in the development of their assessment plans.  These guidelines usually provide a list of what is to be included in a plan.  Some more common components include:

  • Identification of measurable educational goals
  • Methodology for measuring the attainment of the educational goals
  • Process for using assessment information to improve programs
  • Explanation of inclusion of all stakeholders

In developing your assessment plan, consider the following:

  • Start with your school’s assessment committee (if you have one) and ask for guidelines as well as examples of what other academic units on campus have developed
  • Research the information that is available through the National Assessment Institute housed at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis
  • Access book materials relevant to your specific needs (for example, Assessment Clear and Simple:  A Practical Guide for Institutions, Departments, and General Education by Barbara Walvoord, 2004)
  • Attend conferences which provide workshops specific to assessment plan development
  • Consider bringing in a consultant to assist your department in the development of the plan

As to the actual process for developing the plan, consider the following steps:

  • Use a block of time to have all faculty meet to develop agreed upon educational goals
  • After the goals have been developed, determine how you are going to measure whether the goals have been achieved (such as through comprehensive exams, capstone course assignments, course embedded strategies, etc.)
  • Establish a schedule for gathering information relevant to the measures you have selected (for example, are you going to pretest students in the introductory course and post them in a senior level course; at what stages in their academic program are you going to measure goal achievement; if you use alumni surveys are you going to administer them once every three or five years; etc.)
  • Determine how you are going to involve all stakeholders including students, alumni, employers, and advisory boards

It is vital to have one or two faculty members within the department be the key persons responsible for follow through on all steps.  Keep in mind that developing a well thought-out assessment plan, selecting assessment methods, gathering data, and writing assessment plans and reports takes time.  It may be necessary for the academic unit to consider a one-course release for the key person responsible for development of the assessment plan.



Stassen, Martha, Kathryn Doherty, and Mya Poe (2001). Program-based Review and Assessment: Tools and Techniques for Program Improvement. Office of Academic Planning and Assessment (OAPA), University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  Retrieved from


Walvoord, Barbara E.  (2004). Assessment Clear and Simple:  A Practical Guide for Institutions, Departments, and General Education.  Jossey-Bass Publishers:  San Francisco, CA.