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Academic Program Assessment

Principles Guiding the Assessment of Student Learning at Santa Clara University

These guiding principles, endorsed by the University Assessment Committee in 2012, describe the need for assessment of student learning to improve programs, the importance of using assessment findings, and the role of faculty, students, staff, and administrators with regard to assessment. It also describes how the University Assessment Committee and Educational Assessment support assessment activities across campus.

Santa Clara University aspires to provide its students with an outstanding education informed and enriched by the Jesuit tradition. To help realize that aspiration Santa Clara actively encourages all of its units—academic and co-curricular—to evaluate the efficacy of their efforts in order to systematically improve their programs. The primary purpose of these ongoing inquiries or assessments of student learning is to provide information that can be used to enhance or make improvements in programs. The important auxiliary use of assessment findings is to demonstrate to external stakeholders that the university is successfully meeting its educational goals.

Assessment of student learning outcomes occurs both in the academic units and co-curricular units on campus. This assessment includes:

  1. Determining the scope and appropriateness of student learning outcomes that reflect standards from their field of study.
  2. Assessing level of success in achieving outcomes guided by the mission and strategic priorities of the university.

Within academic departments or programs, the faculty have the primary responsibility for the development, implementation, and ongoing use of academic assessment activities within their departments or programs. Similarly, learning outcomes within co-curricular programs are guided by relevant norms or standards within higher education, and the university mission and strategic plan.

In the best of cases, assessment activities have educational value for the students, contributing to student learning as well as providing a reflection of their learning. The observations and measurements used to demonstrate achievement of student learning outcomes should go beyond self-evaluation by students of their own educational experiences or learning and—in the case of academic departments or programs—course grades, to demonstrate student mastery of or application of knowledge and competencies.

Support for assessment activities is provided through many offices on campus. The purposes of the University Assessment Committee are to collaborate with the Educational Assessment to provide periodic peer review of department or program assessment activities, provide opportunities to discuss varying approaches to assessment, and offer recommendations to the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and the Vice Provost for Student Life in support of meaningful and sustainable approaches to assessment on campus.

Santa Clara University recognizes that developing and sustaining a thoughtful and effective assessment program takes time and that this process includes learning from our efforts—not just about student learning, but the very process of assessment as a form of inquiry. We are committed to building assessment practices that answer the questions about student learning the faculty and other program directors deem most important, while being mindful of the time, energy, and financial resources required to undertake assessment activity.