Program Assessment Overview

An introduction to program assessment, what it is, why it is important and how to do it.

What is Program Assessment?

"Program-level assessment looks at how well all students in a program have achieved program-level learning goals". (Suskie, 2018, p.17).  Furthermore, it is defined as a systematic and continuous process of collecting, analyzing and using information to improve student learning and the program as defined in the program mission, goals and student learning outcomes. The goal is continuous improvement of student learning, thus program. 

Program Assessment answers the following questions:

  1. What do we want our students to learn in our program?  (program mission, goals, outcomes)

  2. How are we helping them learn? (Curriculum maps)

  3. How do we know that our students are learning what we want them to learn? (Data/Evidence)

  4. What have we learned about student learning to further improve student learning/program? (Use the Results)

  5. Did the changes made improve student learning?  (Implement change & Reassess) 

Program assessment cycle below depicts the process. For details on each component of the program assessment cycle please visit Program Assessment Tools.  Program Assessment Overview: Mission: Aligns with College mission, states the purpose of the program and its offerings to concerned stakeholders (faculty, students, administrators, etc.) leading to Program Goals:Derived from program mission, states how the program fulfills its mission, i.e. through what educational experiences followed by Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs): Derived from goals; measurable statements of knowledge, skills & abilities that students are expected to acquire as a result of educational experience. This leads to Curriculum Mapping which is a map of program goals/learning outcomes to the program curriculum, indicating which goal/outcome is addressed in which course (s). Measures/Data Collection: Measures are the direct or indirect evidence of learning; source of data collection. Results/Analysis: Data results further analyzed to determine and interpret the findings at the program level. Action (close the loop): Recommend and implement changes to further improve student learning outcomes hence program.

Why do we need Program Assessment?

  • To improve student learning and programs
  • To do self-study for Middle-States Accreditation and Academic Program Review (APR)
  • To make student learning outcomes the important driven force for program improvements
  • To become Data-Driven-Decision Makers
  • To identify changes and resources needed
  • To inform concerned stakeholders

How to do Program Assessment?

Plan, Do, Check and Act (cycle): A basic guide on how to begin program assessment.

Plan, Do, Check and Act cycle to guide programs on how to begin program assessment.  Plan: 1.Review/Revise Program mission, program goals (PG), and/or expected program-level student learning outcomes. 2. Create Assessment Plan, Who is involved and the timeline and other logistics and identify which goals/ outcomes will be assessed and when. Do: 3. Measures, map the goals/outcomes to program curriculum, identify measures, establish an expected level of achievement, collect and evaluate data. Check: 4. Results, analyze and interpret results, share and communicate results with stakeholders, Propose changes to improve results, i.e. pedagogy ,curriculum, resources, change in assessment practice, etc. Act: 5.Implement, Implement the proposed changes after mutual agreement with the concerned stakeholders, Monitor the changes, Compare results with prior assessment, Review entire process and gathered information, Repeat the cycle       


Model adapted from “UCF Academic Program Assessment Handbook”, University of Central Florida, ©2005, edition 2008, accessed September 2016 and has been further modified.

Suskie, Linda. Assessing Student Learning, a common sense guide. © 2004 by Anker Publishing now part of Jossey-Bass.