Why Academic Assessment?

At Gustavus, we are a community of learners committed to excellence. We seek knowledge and strive to improve our skills. Sometimes our learning and striving involves conducting a laboratory experiment or attending a program in the residence halls or completing a second (or third or fourth) revision of a paper.

Sometimes it involves the assessment of student learning itself. Assessment is a form of inquiry in which faculty and staff seek to learn what skills, content areas, habits, and dispositions our students are learning and how we can better facilitate their learning. Although some people might imagine that assessment is something that only happens at the end of things—after a student has turned in the final paper or completed the lab—at Gustavus, we constantly assess student learning. We gather information about how well students understand a concept or an author’s argument so we can gauge whether to review or move on. We get feedback on ongoing programs so we can improve them. As people committed to learning and to excellence, we consistently inquire about what and how well our students are learning and what we can all can do to improve.

At Gustavus, assessment is not an add-on, another activity to check off a list. It is an integral part of who we are and what we do. It is part of our commitment to inquiry, to learning, and to excellence.

The Gustavus Academic Assessment Process

At Gustavus, we think about academic assessment at three levels:

  • Institutional
  • Department and Program
  • Course

We focus our academic assessment at the department and program and course levels. Our assessment processes emphasize evaluating student work and using that evaluation to inform the various levels of assessment. We assess our institutional outcomes using aggregate data from department and programs and Student Life. Our academic assessment plan (including Institutional Student Learning Outcomes) is available here 

The relationships among the three levels of academic assessment resemble a diamond:

You can watch an overview of academic assessment at Gustavus here: