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Academic Assessment

Our campus utilizes many types of academic assessment. The Office of Academic Assessment has created this website to serve as a single point of information for all those types. We strongly urge you to start with the overview of Academic Assessment types below. Then, you may use the links to visit the sections with additional details.

Course-level Student Learning Outcome (SLO) Assessment

Faculty regularly assess student learning in the courses we teach. We use that information to improve our teaching and our students’ learning. The Office of Academic Assessment does not require us to submit data from this level of assessment unless a Student Learning Outcome (SLO) assessment within the course is included in the curriculum map for a department program or is required for General Education Assessment (both explained below). In those cases, we submit our data either to our own departments for Program SLO tracking, as defined by the department’s Assessment Plan, or to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness (IE) as part of the General Education Assessment cycle.

Program SLO Assessment

Each department has an Assessment Plan, which must do the following:

  1. outline clear and measurable outcomes for student learning within each program that the department oversees;
  2. explain what data the department will collect and how they will collect it (what assessment activities they will use and what they will establish as the criteria for success) for each learning outcome;
    • Please note that these assessments cannot all be summative (at the conclusion of the students’ senior year) because faculty need time to revise course design if the program is not meeting its outcomes.
  3. relate the SLOs to the bigger picture or vision the department has for graduates of its programs.

For approximately 3-5 years (cycle determined by accreditation or other departmental requirements), departments gather annual data as defined by their Assessment Plan.  During that time, the department may analyze the data (at least broadly) to be sure students are on track to meet the desired learning outcomes. 

Then the department completes an Assessment Report.  This summarizes the assessment data results, includes an analysis, and describes any changes the department will pursue as a result of that information.  At this same time, the department submits an updated Assessment Plan as SLOs and/or assessment methods will likely evolve over time.

Program Review

Every 7-10 years, the department will complete a full departmental self-study and external review, either as part of an accreditation process (if externally accredited by a disciplinary accreditor) or in conjunction with the Academic Assessment Coordinator, Office of Institutional Effectiveness, and the appropriate Associate Dean.  The self-study “has the dual purpose of involving the faculty in a critical scrutiny of all aspects of the department – undergraduate and graduate (if relevant) programs, scholarship, service, student learning environment, recruiting and retention of students, continuing faculty development – and of informing the reviewers about the department.” (SUNY Potsdam Guidelines for Review of Academic Departments and Programs (Revised 01/14/09), p. 4) Obviously, a document of this scope includes many things, one of which is an Assessment Report as well as an updated Assessment Plan.

The Assessment Report as well as the updated Assessment Plan are due to the Office of Academic Assessment every 3-5 years – once at the midway point of the assessment cycle, and then again as part of the full self-study and external review completed every 7-10 years. The Academic Assessment Cycle shows when each department/program is expected to complete these submissions. The Office of Academic Assessment has worked in conjunction with the Deans to develop a schedule that coincides with accreditation and other departmental needs.  Should your department have any questions or recommendations regarding this schedule, please contact the Academic Assessment Coordinator.

General Education Assessment

The Potsdam Graduate informs the Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) for the General Education Program. Many of the knowledge and skill areas in the Potsdam Graduate map onto specific General Education designators. Faculty who teach these courses assess these SLOs on a 3-year cycle, coordinated by the Academic Assessment Coordinator and Director of General Education. Assessment data are analyzed by members of the General Education committee. The campus is currently revising its General Education program; part of that revision process includes considering and evaluating the entire assessment process. Be sure to check back after the revision is complete to learn about the new processes and assessment cycle.