Assessment of Student Learning

Barnard College is committed to providing an excellent academic experience for all undergraduates and to the use of ongoing assessment of student learning to improve curriculum, pedagogy, and the student academic experience. Assessment is based on clear expectations for student learning and multiple opportunities for students to engage with, reinforce, and master key learning outcomes.

All academic departments and programs are expected to have in place an assessment plan, to review it periodically, and to engage in a periodic, ambitious, and sustained assessment of one or more elements of the major and its learning goals.

The Office of the Provost and the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment can assist department chairs and program directors with this process by offering workshops, resources, and whenever possible, administrative support. The Institutional Research website includes resources to assist with assessment of student learning.  Please contact the Director of Institutional Research and Assessment, by phone (ext. 1-2273) or via email for assistance.

Essential Components of an Academic Department Assessment Plan

A complete assessment plan includes all of the following components:

  • A departmental mission statement—a statement that identifies the purpose and aims of the academic program or department;
  • A statement of key student learning outcomes—a description of the knowledge, skills, competencies, attitudes, and habits of mind that students should be able to demonstrate upon graduating;
  • A periodic multi-year assessment exercise – a systematic plan for assessment of student learning which will include some direct assessment of student work. The plan should identify the research question and relevant student learning outcomes, the method(s) to be used to gather evidence to address the research question, and plans for discussion of the results and development of next steps.

All academic departments must participate in assessment. Before approval of a new major, an assessment plan must be completed and submitted to the Provost’s Office.

Cyclical Assessment Model

Beginning in 2014-15, the Provost and Director of Institutional Research and Assessment implemented a cyclical model for assessment of student learning within the major. This model was developed with the following goals in mind:

  • To use faculty time and energy most efficiently and effectively;
  • To encourage and support more ambitious assessment projects, including multi-year assessment exercises and interdisciplinary thematic assessment projects; and
  • To generate synergies across departments and programs.

Departments and programs engage in rotating multi-year engagements with rigorous assessment projects, followed by a several year hiatus. Departments can elect to engage in assessment either on a stand-alone basis or as part of a multi-disciplinary group exploring a mode of thinking or other general education expectation.

Multi-disciplinary groups will meet three or four times during an academic year, as scheduled by the Provost and Director of Institutional Research and Assessment. Meetings will focus on developing and sharing strategies for and results of assessment of the thematic focus of the group.

Department- or program-based assessment involves a three-year review cycle, during which faculty will develop a research question related to student learning outcomes; collect and evaluate evidence, including direct assessment of student work; develop and implement any changes in curriculum, pedagogy, or learning outcomes; and conduct further assessment to evaluate the impact of these changes.  

Discussion and Reporting of Results

Assessment projects and results should be discussed with the full departmental faculty at least annually while a department is engaged in the assessment process. Annual reports summarizing the previous academic year’s work and findings and detailing plans for the current academic year should be submitted to the Provost and the Director of Institutional Research and Assessment by November 15. The Provost and DIRA will provide feedback to the department over the course of the academic year.

Responsibilities of Chairs and Faculty

Department Chairs and Program Directors are charged with coordinating faculty to develop and implement an assessment plan. Chairs and directors submit to the Office of the Provost the department’s or program’s assessment plan, schedule and coordinate regular departmental meetings on assessment, and submit periodic reports as outlined above.

Faculty members are expected to be full participants in the development, discussion, and review of the department’s or program’s assessment work.