The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

What is Assessment ?

Assessment is the process by which programs evaluate what students know, think, or do as a result of those programs. Programs then use assessment results to make any improvements needed to the curriculum. In addition to this main purpose, assessment results are also of beneficial use when it comes to demonstrating that an institution has met accreditation and performance funding standards.

Programmatic assessment at UTK is outlined by five main steps in a cycle, as seen below. It’s important to note that the cycle is iterative, meaning changes can be made at any step when deemed necessary by the program.

what is assessment

Assessment is NOT

The only information considered when evaluating programs
Course Grades
Course grades indicate the extent to which students have individually met course requirements. In contrast, assessment results indicate the extent to which students, as an aggregate, have met program objectives.
Assignment of course grades vary across courses and course sections. Additionally, course grades often include things such as attendance that aren’t directly related to program objectives, and there can be a lot of subjectivity in how instructors assign grades. In contrast, assessment is intended to directly measure program objectives and to be as objective as possible (e.g., performing inter-rater reliability checks for any rubrics the program uses to evaluate student performance).
Student Opinions or Satisfaction
Because the purpose of assessment is to determine how much students have learned or developed as a result of the program, it’s essential to have direct measures of student learning (i.e. directly testing what the student knows, thinks, or does). Student opinions or satisfaction can provide additional information, but ultimately are indirect measures and thus should not be used as the only measure for a program objective.

For more information on assessment, visit the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center’s page at


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