Academic Program Assessment

All academic programs (i.e., undergraduate, graduate, distance, off-site, degree completion) are responsible for submitting an annual Continuous Improvement Report (CIR), addressing the level of attainment of student learning and program outcomes and outlining continuous improvement action plans for the subsequent year.

The responsibility for the annual assessment of each academic program rests with the individual college dean, led by either the department chair or the program coordinator, and supported by the Associate Dean of the respective college. The institution sets a submission date of September 15 for all CIRs from the previous academic year and CIPs for the current academic year. An individual college, however, may select an earlier date to facilitate the use of program CIRS in the completion of end-of-year department and college reports.

A common template is used for submission of Continuous Improvement Reports (CIRs) and Continuous Improvement Plans (CIPs) to maintain consistency of reporting across programs. Academic programs work within the Online Assessment Reporting System (OARS) to submit completed CIRs, CIPs, and supporting documentation.

Each component of a CIR is discussed below. The Development and Completion Guidelines for Continuous Improvement Reports (PDF - 295 KB) provides a more complete description of each component and illustrates each with examples.

  • Mission – The mission statements of the college and the University are included as a reminder of the institution’s collective efforts. Each academic program identifies its mission statement in light of the institutional mission. The program’s mission statement is a concise statement describing its primary functions, identifying whom the program serves, and stating how the program contributes to the development of its students.
  • Outcomes – Student learning outcomes (SLOs) clearly state the expected knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes that students are expected to acquire and reliably demonstrate by the end of the program. Program outcomes address important programmatic aspects, aside from student learning, particularly as they pertain to the quality and/or productivity of the program.
  • Alignment with the Winthrop Plan, College Strategic Plan, and University Level Competencies – The student learning and program outcomes of the program align with the work of the college and the institution. In this way, the collective work of all programs within a college and of all units across the institution advances the mission of the University.
  • Summary Statement of Assessment-based Accomplishments and Improvements – The summary statement highlights the impact of engaging in data-informed actions on student learning and/or program performance, thus providing a high-level understanding of improvement efforts.
  • Activities – Activities describe the actions taken in support of attaining the desired outcomes and are reflective of the Action Plan articulated in the previous year’s Continuous Improvement Report.
  • Assessment Methods – Assessment methods include the strategies, techniques, tools, and instruments used for collecting information to determine the extent to which desired outcomes are attained. The methods chosen should allow the program to evaluate its effectiveness, highlighting strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Targets – Targets are a measure of the performance level expected for each outcome.
  • Assessment Results and Discussion – Assessment results are the findings gathered from executing the activities. Analysis of the data/information determines the extent to which the program’s expected outcomes have been realized. A systematic data collection and analysis process maximize the impact of the efforts.
  • Documentation – Documentation comprises the materials/documents that provide evidence of the assessment methods used and the assessment results attained.
  • Continuous Improvement Action Plan – The Continuous Improvement Action Plan defines the data-informed activities to be undertaken in the subsequent year to enhance student learning and/or program performance.

Continuous Improvement Reports (CIRs) and supporting documentation are reviewed by members of the Academic Assessment Committee via a common rubric. Completed rubrics are returned to academic programs to assist in the quality enhancement of subsequent CIRs.

The institution’s Department of Institutional Effectiveness provides a variety of assessment support materials to academic programs and conducts individualized meetings and training sessions, as requested by academic programs, departments, and colleges.


Read Me First (PDF - 323 KB)

This document guides academic programs through process details and explains available resources to support their assessment efforts.

Development and Completion Guidelines for Continuous Improvement Reports (PDF - 295 KB)

This document addresses each component of a continuous improvement report, explaining its purpose and composition, and providing an applicable example.

Curriculum Map Instructions (PDF - 142 KB)

A curriculum map aligns each student learning outcome with the course(s) in which it is introduced, emphasized, and reinforced. Example curriculum maps (PDF - 144 KB) provide a model of this alignment, as well as demonstrate the inclusion of assessment methods. This Curriculum Map Template (PDF - 178 KB) can be used to create your curriculum map.

Annotated Sample Academic Program Continuous Improvement Report (PDF -277 KB) and Plan (PDF - 177 KB)

These samples include all the required reporting sections for one outcome, with the annotation providing guidance on the strengths of the Report and Plan. Several annotations within the Sample Plan allow the reader to comprehend the link between a Report for one year and a Plan for the subsequent year, noting how the latter naturally evolves from the former.

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Action Verbs (PDF - 48 KB)

Bloom’s Taxonomy provides a cognitive framework, arranging learning from lower level cognition (remembering) to higher cognitive functionality (creating). The listing of action verbs assists in identifying the level of cognition desirable for each student learning outcome.

Glossary of Assessment Terms (PDF - 231 KB)

The Glossary defines a number of assessment terms, enhancing the use of a “common” assessment language.

Report Rubric – Academic (PDF 226 KB)

This rubric is used by the Academic Assessment Committee to assess each Continuous Improvement Report (CIR) submitted by academic programs. The rubric allows for numerical ratings and reviewer comments for each of the rubric’s nine dimensions (i.e., mission statement, program outcomes, student learning outcomes, summary statement of assessment-based accomplishments and improvements, activities, assessment methods, assessment results, documentation, continuous improvement action plans). Completed rubrics are returned to academic programs to assist in the quality enhancement of subsequent CIRs.

Plan Rubric – Academic (PDF - 141 KB)

This rubric is used by the Academic Assessment Committee to assess each Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP) submitted by academic programs. The rubric allows for a yes/no response for each of the rubric’s five dimensions (i.e., mission statement, program outcomes, student learning outcomes, activities, assessment methods) and an overall comment. Completed rubrics are returned to academic programs to assist in making any necessary adjustments to the Plan prior to implementation.

OARS User Instructions (PDF - 949 KB)

OARS serves as the institutional repository for all academic programs’ Continuous Improvement Reports (CIRs). These instructions provide a detailed guide to academic programs, allowing them to access their CIR and CIP templates.