Outcome Assessment and SACSCOC
Rice University's regional accreditor, The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), maintains that the university should operate within an academic philosophy of continuous improvement, and therefore should regularly and procedurally assess and document the rigor of all its academic and degree conferring programs. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE) oversees and guides all academic departments in the adherence of these processes, with the aim of not only providing the necessary documentation to SACSCOC, but also to encourage a culture of authentic, goal-driven assessment that leads to continuous improvement in both undergraduate and graduate education.
For more information about Rice's accreditors and the university's accreditation status, please visit Accreditation at Rice. For more information about SACSCOC, please visit the SACSCOC website. For information about the SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation, please see the SACSCOC Resource Manual.
Program Learning Outcomes
Program Learning Outcomes (sometimes referred to as Student Learning Outcomes, or Level Outcomes) are developed for several reasons. Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) demonstrate to the students what skills or areas of knowledge they will achieve by completing the academic program. PLOs act to clarify the vision and the purpose of the program, and work to give distinctiveness when compared to similar programs at other academic institutions. PLOs also assist faculty see where their individual specialties fit into the overall curriculum of the program. Measuring and analyzing student PLO proficiency is the cornerstone of academic assessment and continuous improvement. PLOs for all programs are published in the General Announcements.
Departments determine and document their assessment strategies for academic programs by utilizing an assessment plan. Assessment plans should demonstrate all PLOs associated with the academic program, the courses and materials that are reviewed for assessment data, how the data was measured, and how the end result compares to the department's standard of success. Additionally, the plan should also indicate a timeline that clearly identifies the program's assessment cycle (i.e., when assessment reports and follow-up reports are submitted to OIE). Please see HERE for an assessment plan template. For questions or consultation on building or revising a program assessment plan, please contact OIE.
Assessment Cycles and Rice Outcome Assessment Reports (ROARs)
SACSCOC requires that programs evaluate and analyze student PLO proficiency on a 3-year cycle. This means that every PLO undergoes an initial review and a follow-up review within a 3-year period before the cycle restarts. OIE recommends that assessment plans are reviewed by faculty assessment coordinators or directors annually, and that data collection begins every fall, and continues until the close of the academic year. Rice Box is highly recommended for data collection and storage.
The Rice Outcome Assessment Report (ROAR) is the format in which the university collects and analyzes evidence that academic programs have defined outcomes for student learning, assesses whether those outcomes are being met, and seeks to continuously improve academic programs. PLO assessment is always based on direct assessment of student achievement; materials utilized in direct assessment are drawn directly from coursework, and may include capstone experiences or projects, exams, essays, presentations, lab work, etc. Non-direct assessment may be used as supplemental data on ROARs and Follow-up ROARs, but cannot be used as the primary assessment instrument; an example of non-direct assessment data would be responses drawn from annual student surveys such as the Survey of All Students and the Senior Exit Survey.
OIE collects ROARs and Follow-up ROARs annually, with the due date falling in mid-June. Reports should be completed entirely, with all sections containing content relevant to the assessment process, results, and improvement plan. ROAR templates and Follow-up ROAR templates are provided in the links below. Please contact OIE if you have any questions regarding the academic assessment and reporting process.