After a unit has defined its most important outcomes, the next step of the process is to measure if (or how well) the expected outcomes are being met. To measure the outcomes, assessors should consider data that is either currently available, easily accessible, or can be gathered without too much effort. Often information that is already collected in the normal course of business may be repurposed for assessment purposes. Examples may include the number of applications processes, the amount of time it takes to respond to student inquiries, etc. In some cases, data gathered from sources outside of the unit may also be utilized. Examples of the latter may include survey results or comparative data from other institutions.
Identify Measures and Targets
Selecting the appropriate approach to assess unit-level outcomes requires careful consideration; there are many methods that can be employed, and very often, more than one can be used simultaneously. However, regardless of the methods used, it is important for assessors to choose an approach that provides the program with enough information with which to make reasonably informed judgements about whether program is achieving the expected outcome.
A good measure provides evidence that can be used to determine if a unit is reasonably achieving expected results. In collecting this evidence, the unit should learn two things: 1) is expected outcome is being met, and 2) is there any ways to improve. For each expected outcome, at least 1-2 measures should be identified to gather this needed information.
Targets are the specific values for each measure which the unit would like to reach and should be realistically ambitious, e.g., what is the minimum result/value that will represent success at achieving this outcome. Targets should flow easily from the measures. Targets must have specific numbers and/or percentages of items, people, or activities which indicate the level of accomplishment for the particular measure. For example; 90% of first year students will rate on a customer satisfaction survey their experience as a 3 (Satisfactory) or better on a 5-point scale’ and/or there will be a 10% increase in financial aid applications for the academic year.
Direct measures explain what specific activity will be undertaken to show the extent to which an expected outcome has been accomplished. Direct measures are powerful because they provide data that correlate exactly with the expected outcome and provide information that may be used to make decisions for improvements in following years.
Direct measures in non-academic areas are often designed to measure the efficacy of services, programs, or other initiatives. Other units may have outcomes that related to student learning. Examples of direct measures may include quantitative reports on accuracy and timeliness of financial reports, student participation numbers and percentages, stakeholder attrition, and usage statistics.