What is Outcome Assessment?
For our purposes let's define assessment as a continuous process used by the College (a) to evaluate the degree to which all College programs and services contribute to the fulfillment of the College's primary mission; and (b) for documenting and improving the College's effectiveness. Faculty have been engaged with assessment of student learning in academic programs for at least the last decade. However for many divisions of the college this process of self-evaluation will be new. Most of us think of assessment as something that academic programs do, but increasingly calls for accountability from outside the college (i.e. the U. S. government, state legislators). These bodies are asking colleges and universities to do continuous assessment of all programs and services, not just curriculum.
Why an assessment handbook?
For many of us who teach at Kenyon and who have been dealing with it for the last two decades, assessment is still a dirty word. The mandate to "assess student outcomes" feels like an onerous task that has been foisted on us by bureaucrats from the outside. We fear that whatever assessment is (and we aren't always sure we know), it will create a lot of busy work for a faculty and staff already overburdened by work, and that the data we collect will end up by being sucked into an informational black hole, never to see the light of day (or maybe that's just what we hope). However, most faculty, in fact most employees at Kenyon, do have a genuine desire to foster in students a lifelong commitment to learning. And we have proven time and again that we are not averse to doing whatever hard work is required to achieve that end.