Skip to contentSkip to Main Site NavigationSkip to Site Left NavigationSkip to Site Utility NavigationSkip to Site SearchSkip to FooterDownload Adobe Reader
The Assessment Cycle

Purpose of Outcomes Assessment

Graphic of assessment cycle with multicolored arrows pointing in a circle; starts at

Source: Kuh, G. D., Ikenberry, S.O., Jankowski, N.A., Reese Cain, T., Ewell, P.T.,
Hutchings, P., & Kinzie, J. (2015). Using evidence of student learning to improve
higher education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

From Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher Education by Kuh et al. (2015):

In their discussion on the purpose of assessment, Kinzie, Hutchings, and Jankowski (2015) make a clear distinction between simply doing assessment and using results. They point out how:

Doing assessment, simply performing assessment activities, is not the same as using assessment results. Considerable assessment activity can occur at a college or university—administering standardized tests to all students, documenting pass rates on licensure exams, writing reports about the results, for example. Until the institution uses the assembled evidence to answer questions about educational quality—about what students know and can do—and then uses the answers to guide change leading to improvement, it is just doing assessment” (p. 56).

They go on to emphasize that “assessment’s true aim is using results, harnessing evidence to inform educational improvements” (p. 56). The image above captures this intent by illustrating the iterative process of using results.

Source: Kinzie, J., Hutchings, P., & Jankowski, N.A. (2015). Fostering greater use of assessment results: Principles for effective practice. In G.D. Kuh, S.O. Ikenberry, N.A. Jankowski, T. Reese Cain, P. T. Ewell, P. Hutchings, & J. Kinzie (Eds.), Using evidence of student learning to improve higher education (pp. 51-72). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

From Assessment Essentials: Planning, Implementing, and Improving Assessment in Higher Education by Banta and Palomba (2015):

Banta and Palomba’s (2015) discussion on the purposes of assessment expands on the ideas above to include a perspective on program assessment as well. They have proposed that:

The overriding purpose of outcomes assessment is to understand how educational programs are working and to determine whether they are contributing to student growth and development. Hence, the ultimate emphasis of outcomes assessment is on programs rather than individual students. At its most useful, assessment provides information about students as a group—information that can be aggregated across sections of a single course and is meaningful across courses . . . It enables educators to examine whether the curriculum makes sense in its entirety and whether students, as a result of all of their experiences, have the knowledge, skills, and values that graduates should possess. Program assessment helps determine whether students can integrate learning from individual courses into a coherent whole. Interest is focused on the cumulative effects of the educational process. Assessment helps us look at programs in a holistic way. (p. 10)

Banta and Palomba offer three essentials of assessment which are reflected in Kuh et al.’s (2015) illustration of the assessment cycle above: A) Planning Effective Assessment; B) Implementing Effective Assessment; and C) Improving and Sustaining Effective Assessment.

Source: Banta, T.W., & Palomba, C.A. (2015). Assessment essentials: Planning, implementing, and improving assessment in higher education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Last Updated: 08/10/2017
  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
A Member of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District