San Diego Mesa College

Frequently Asked Questions


Why isn't grading the same as Outcomes Assessment? 

In Outcomes Assessment, the terms “scoring” and “grading” have different meanings. Scoring refers to the process of marking an assessment instrument to get data about how the course has done at achieving its outcomes. Grading is the process of marking an assessment instrument for the purpose of assigning a student a grade for the course. Scoring needs to be done consistently across all sections; grading can be done differently in each section if instructors desire. In no way does the Outcomes Assessment scoring process infringe on an instructor’s grading; final grades are an aggregate assessment of a student’s entire body of work for the course, often including attendance and class participation.

Grades do not provide:

  • Specific information about students’ performance on core learning outcomes
  • Detailed data across sections
  • Objective student data which can be used for improvement of student learning

Does this affect my Academic Freedom? 

Nothing inherent in the Mesa College Outcomes Assessment process interferes or violates the academic freedom of the instructor. Assessing outcomes is simply about faculty determining whether students are learning those things they deem most important, and then using the information to make changes where appropriate. Nothing in the College process dictates in any way how faculty choose to deliver the course content or how they grade their students.

Will the results have complete statistical validity and will they be useful? 

The short answers are yes and no. While the results will not have the kind of statistical validity or reliability that would make a statistics professor happy, they will most certainly be useful in the way this process intends – to give faculty members meaningful information about how their courses are doing at achieving the goals they themselves defined. Achieving greater validity and reliability would require that a carefully selected random sample of papers be scored by a team of trained evaluators, thus minimizing the direct participation in the process by the vast majority of faculty. The College's assessment process makes a trade-off between complete statistical reliability and faculty involvement.

Isn't this just a slippery slope leading to standardized testing? 

Absolutely, and unequivocally, not!! Such a direction has never even been contemplated by anyone, including administrators, involved with Outcomes Assessment at Mesa College. For further reassurance, know that the ACCJC, strong advocates of Outcomes Assessment, do not advocate standardized testing.

Isn't this just another academic find that will be gone in a couple of years? 

Not likely. The Outcomes Assessment movement has been in existence since the early 1990's, and its momentum is growing, not waning. Every higher education accreditation agency across the country now includes the assessment of learning outcomes as one of their highest priority criteria. ACCJC, just like WASC, Middle States, Higher Learning Commission, and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, emphasizes and requires the importance of creating a culture of Outcomes Assessment within the institutions it oversees.

Can the results of assessment be used to evaluate faculty performance on merit or tenure and promotion evaluations? 

No, outcomes assessment results are not a component of faculty evaluation and serve solely to provide data about the quality of academic programs that will help faculty improve them where necessary. Results from individual courses will remain in a Departmental file with only the aggregate data from all courses assessed being submitted.

Our program/service area/admin area is working well, the students are successful, and therefore we don't need to bother with assessment. 

No matter how well a program/service area/admin area is working, there is always room for improvement. Our students are constantly evolving and, therefore, our teaching or service to students needs to evolve as well. Continuous assessment to determine how best to improve the educational experience of our students must be an integral part of all our activities. Rather than trusting unsubstantiated claims by programs that they do what they say they do, external stakeholders now require data that provide evidence for those claims. To retain our institutional accreditation, carefully assessing all our programs/service areas/admin areas is the only option.

We will just assign a single faculty or staff member to plan and conduct the assessment. 

It is important that everyone is involved at all stages of the process.  Each person in the department/service area/admin unit contributes different perspectives and ideas for improving the academic program, and combining that wealth of ideas creates a much stronger end product.

Administration will use the results to eliminate programs.

This is a formative assessment process that will provide substantive feedback to help improve programs through assessment by the respective faculty/staff/administrators of the program/service area/admin area. Program assessment is not a summative evaluation aimed at eliminating programs or services; at Mesa we aim to grow our programs and services, not to eliminate them.

Last Updated: May 23, 2017
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