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Potsdam Prepared: Fall 2021 Updates

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 (a) involving the faculty in a critical scrutiny of all aspects of the program: scholarship, service, student learning environment, recruiting and retention of students, continuing faculty development, enrollment trends in the major and in the service of the College, interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary contributions, and (b) informing the Review Team about the program. (View SUNY Potsdam Guidelines for Academic Program Review (Revised 9/24/20), p. 4 (PDF)) 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.

Potsdam Pathways General Education Assessment

The Potsdam Pathways General Education Program developed Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) based on competencies, literacies, and experiences that enrich our students’ lives and help them be active lifelong learners and problem solvers. Pathways is divided into three levels, Ways of Beginning, Ways of Thinking, and Ways of Connecting. More information on the levels can be found on the Pathways webpage, here. The assessment plan starts with Ways of Beginning courses (in AY 20-21) followed by Ways of Thinking courses and then Ways of Connecting courses. It will run on a seven-year cycle with mid-point opportunities for revisions, if necessary. Details on the assessment plan for the Pathways General Education program can be found here (PDF). Questions can be sent to Dr. Christine Doran at, Director of the Potsdam Pathways General Education Program.

Academic Assessment Plan and Report Templates

Please use these Report and Plan Templates for both your mid-cycle review and your end-cycle review.

Support and Training

For one-on-one help, contact the campus Academic Assessment Coordinator at

Academic Assessment Process for New Chairs/Assessment Coordinators