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The Assessment Plan Composer: Meeting SACS Requirements. Phil Moore & Susan Prior Institutional Planning & Assessment USC Columbia. Why Do We Need This System?. SACS was under-whelmed with our program assessments at our 2000 accreditation visit Episodic Little continuity

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The Assessment Plan Composer: Meeting SACS Requirements

Phil Moore & Susan Prior

Institutional Planning & Assessment

USC Columbia

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Why Do We Need This System?

  • SACS was under-whelmed with our program assessments at our 2000 accreditation visit

    • Episodic

    • Little continuity

    • Often was not “student learning at the program level”

    • Plans all looked differently, with different understanding of what the terms meant

    • Needed a way to hold people accountable and help them see the value of assessment

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Changes to SACS accreditation requirements

  • Core requirements

    • 2.5 The institution engages in ongoing, integrated, and institution-wide research-based planning and evaluation processes that incorporate a systematic review of programs and services that (a) results in continuing improvement, and (b) demonstrates that the institution is effectively accomplishing its mission.

    • “ongoing” “integrated” “continuing improvement” & related to mission

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New SACS Terminology

  • Comprehensive Standards

    • 3.3.1 The institution identifies expected outcomes for its educational programs and its administrative and educational support services; assesses whether it achieves these outcomes; and provides evidence of improvement based on analysis of those results.

    • “outcomes- are they being met?” & “evidence of improvements (changes) based upon results”

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So, APC Components . . .

  • Mission statement

  • Goals

  • Student Learning Outcomes (aka Objectives)

  • Criteria

  • Measures

  • Results

  • Use of Results

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The APC Design

  • To help encourage on-going assessment, the system is made up of two components:

    • The Assessment Report – this includes Results and Use of Results

    • The Assessment Plan – this changes based upon what you learned from the assessment results etc. in the previous year’s report

    • The two together are the Assessment “Document”

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Guidelines for the Terminology

  • Mission statement

    • Should be relatively short

    • Doesn’t need to be program specific – a departmental mission statement is fine

    • Must tie in with the larger, institutional mission statement

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  • Goals

    • Broad aims of the program

    • Are usually pretty general

    • Often lead in with “The department expects all graduates to . . .”

  • Curriculum

    • Not a listing of specific courses necessarily, but where are the students being exposed to the experiences they need to reach the goal?

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  • Student Learning Outcomes (Objectives)

    • More specific versions of the Goal statements – can seem a little redundant

    • Main difference is that Outcomes include ACTIVE verbs that describe what the students will do to show they have reached the learning goal

    • Outcomes must be measurable – for example, can you measure something like “have knowledge of”?

    • Often use “students will demonstrate . . .”

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  • Criteria

    • What the students collectively will do, under what conditions, and what you will consider acceptable

  • Methods

    • The logistics for each outcome. Who will do what when, in relation to collecting the necessary information?

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  • (These two sections appear only in the Annual Report section of each Assessment Document)

  • Results

    • What did you learn about how well your students are performing? Should be one result for each Goal/Outcome combination

  • Use of Results

    • What did you do (change) as a result of what you learned? This is what SACS wants to see as evidence of program improvement.

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Plan Manager

This is the main menu for the step-by-step process in the development of the Assessment plan.

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In conclusion

  • System was designed to solve some problems

    • Inconsistencies

    • “Nice” language saying nothing

  • Should help people to see the advantages of doing good assessment and make it seem manageable

  • We must demonstrate we are assessing our programs and making necessary changes to SACS

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Feedback from the SACS Consultant

  • Good start

  • Appropriate terminology generally – she did encourage us to shift to Learning Outcomes

  • Need to strengthen the plans themselves

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The Demonstration Site

  • If you are interested in “playing around” with the system to see if it might meet your institution’s needs, please log on to

  • To be an Administrator,

    • UserID = Admin; Password = Admin

  • To be a User,

    • UserID = Planwriter; Password = Planwriter

  • As this is a demonstration site, multiple users may be making changes to the same plans!

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Additional Information

1st year cost– hosted, maintained, and supported by USC’s Computer Services = $5000

  • (No hardware or software installation is required on your part)

  • Each additional year – 18% of initial year cost ($900)

  • (The system works on a Windows 200X server with IIS 5+ and SQL Server 2000)

  • For additional information about the Assessment Plan Composer, please contact Susan Prior –

  • For additional information about licensing, please contact Chad Hardaway –

  • For additional information about the technical aspects, please contact Eric Patterson –