University's Approach to Assessment

Assessment is a broad term with different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. It is different than evaluation. Assessment and evaluation make use of similar methods, but they have different end goals. The ultimate goal of assessment is to improve student learning.

Penn State’s Approach

"Assessment is the ongoing process of establishing clear, measurable expected outcomes of student learning, ensuring that students have sufficient opportunities to achieve those outcomes, systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well students learning matches the expectations and using the resulting information to understand and improve student learning."
~Linda Suskie (2009), Middle States Commission on Higher Education

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) is the unit of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools that accredits degree-granting colleges and universities in the Middle States region, which includes Pennsylvania.
 As a result of the accreditation review of 2005, Middle States recommended that Penn State “document the development of a comprehensive plan for the assessment of student learning that is linked to the overall assessment of institutional effectiveness and to the institute's strategic planning process.”

Following the 2005 Self-Study for Middle States accreditation, the Provost established the Coordinating Committee on University Assessment (CCUA) and charged the group with developing a University-wide Assessment Plan that prioritizes Penn State’s assessment needs related to student learning.

Since that time, the CCUA and the Schreyer Institute have been providing assessment support through their website (, assessment events and consultations. Penn State provided an interim report in June 2010 and will be re-evaluated by Middle States in 2014-2015.  Penn State is required by Middle States to assess and improve student learning at both undergraduate and graduate levels and to provide direct evidence to Middle States documenting this improvement.  At the present time Penn State is concentrating on assembling and maintaining learning objectives and data collection plans for all undergraduate majors.

The College of Agricultural Sciences' Approach 

The College of Agricultural Sciences contributes to the University goal of assessing and improving student learning outcomes.  Program faculty are in varying stages of adopting the assessment process described on the next few pages. Changes are currently underway for several undergraduate majors including Turfgrass and Plant Sciences. Each undergraduate program should complete the following template for their major on or before Monday April 23, 2012. The information will be compiled and submitted to the ACUE Assessment Coordinating Committee in early May for their review.