I. Why “Do” Assessment?

This handbook describes policies and practices for assessment of institutional success at Illinois College. Because the success of our College is the aggregated success of students, faculty, and staff, the policies and practices described here are relevant to all members of our College community. As Illinois College is committed to the highest standards of scholarship and integrity in the liberal arts, we must carry out and document a continuous cycle of reflection, evaluation, revision, and implementation of improvement in every aspect of our work.

To facilitate this cycle of systematic improvement we utilize written assessment plans, assessment implementation reports, and systematic reviews by peers and colleagues. Transparent and constructive review of the work serves to highlight areas that should be improved and allows for open discussions of our work with campus community members. Our process also includes the dissemination of results and practices throughout the College in order to prompt ideas for improvements as well as share demonstrated successes. 

The practices described here have the added benefit that they can be used to demonstrate to outside audiences our ongoing cycle of reflection, evaluation, revision, and improvement. Two such audiences are the program and accreditation review teams. Usually, both types of reviews are carried out by external experts at five to ten year intervals. The program review examines data in the aggregate over that time period to understand how a department or program contributes to the College mission. Similarly, the accreditation review asks how, and to what extent, does the College meet its stated goals and mission. Thus both reviews often ask a remarkably similar set of questions. Both types of reviews use quantitative indicators and provide qualitative evaluations.

By carrying out a meaningful assessment process and documenting these activities in an annual Assessment Implementation Report, a department or program can effectively demonstrate their process of improvement and planned accomplishments. A documented cycle of data collection, interpretation, and information-based decisions about operational changes is essential (but not sufficient) to a comprehensive and successful program review. Similarly, by carrying out the assessment activities at the division and institution levels, as described in this handbook, the College can demonstrate the ongoing cycle of improvement and thereby prepare effectively for our next accreditation review.

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