Definition of Terms
The mission of Old Dominion University serves as an umbrella for colleges, academic programs, educational support services, and administrative units. The expanded statement of institutional purpose demonstrates the relationship of each program, service, or unit to the University's mission and goals.
Statements of goals are connections between the mission and the intended outcomes. These statements provide a picture of the expectations of each program, service, or unit, and may be educational in nature or serve as academic support.
Intended Outcomes or Objectives
Statements of intended outcomes or objectives are descriptions of the work that will be done. These generally are results-oriented statements. Intended educational outcomes are descriptions of what academic departments intend for students to know (cognitive), think (attitudinal), or do (behavioral) when they have completed their degree programs. Academic support objectives are specific statements of what will be accomplished or what "clients" would think, know, or do. Three to five statements of the most important intended outcomes or objectives is a typical number, and they should not be considered as set in stone, as they may undergo refinement in the process of identifying the means for assessing accomplishments.
Means of Assessment
The means of assessment are the strategies with which information will be collected in order to validate each intended outcome or objective. These may include such techniques as comprehensive exams; student portfolios, senior projects, theses, or dissertations evaluated by a committee; exit interviews, alumni surveys, graduating student surveys, employer surveys; results of licensing exams; evaluations by practitioners; or student satisfaction levels. Academic programs should consider including one instance of value-added assessment and one instance of external review in each assessment plan. Three to five methods of measurement (including alternate strategies) are suggested for each outcome or objective.
Criteria for Success
The criteria for success serve as the benchmarks for judging the results of the assessment. Criteria should neither be set unrealistically high nor so modestly low that anyone can meet them, for without criteria based on what a program or service "ought" to be able to expect and that can be measured against actual performance, it would be difficult to make use of the data to improve the program or service.
NOTE: The importance of an assessment plan for institutional effectiveness is not so much whether the stated criteria are met but, rather, that there is a process in place for stating intended outcomes and objectives, measuring accomplishments, and using the results to make improvements.
A useful reference for preparing Assessment Plans, complete with examples, is James O. Nichols' The Departmental Guide and Record Book for Student Outcomes Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness (Agathon Press, 1995) which is on reserve in the Perry Library at Old Dominion University as Call No. W3936.