As the cost of education increases and higher education institutions are further committed to tuition freezes to ease the financial burden of students, outcomes assessment has become an important way to provide quality education without increasing costs.
The most obvious role of outcomes assessment is in terms of accreditation, in which higher education institutions must prove the quality of education to regional accreditation boards. However, it also involves internal commitment and review by faculty to make expectations clear and set standards for performance. It is an essential part of developing a shared academic community.
However, instruction is only one element of outcomes assessment. Student advising and other support services are also subject to evaluation and input. Many colleges are seeing that success in academia involves more than just what goes on in the classroom. This translates into better support for the academic process, with added resources for the students as integral in the success of all involved.
Instructors are considering assessment in the process of creating syllabi and courses, and are being held accountable in their departments for success of their students. For example, in English Departments at many college’s students are being evaluated by various processes including portfolios. Other colleges are using exit exams for such courses as freshman composition.
Outcomes assessment has two key roles in education-to establish accountability and improvement. It means showing the problems that need to be worked on while also meeting certain standards. This commitment to assessing outcomes means more transparency for higher education, which has tended to be insular. Also, with less money available for higher education, departments have increased pressure to show the worth of their efforts with quantifiable results.
Also, giving students the best possible education isn’t the only goal in our uncertain economic environment-higher education also has to prove that coursework will translate into being hired and economic success. This means creating problem solvers who can be managers, adapt to new situations, and be self-motivated. With this external pressure, colleges are using outcomes assessment to shape departmental standards that keep in mind life long issues.
Faculty is now being trained in graduate schools to practice research-based pedagogies. They are shaping the future of outcomes assessment and seeing it as a vital tool for best education practices. This involves asking questions about what the goal of education is when designing courses, evaluating if these standards have been meet after a course, and using that information to change and shape future coursework. This involves an ever-evolving method of outcomes assessment that is integrated into the very learning process.