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AACSB introduced the concept of “outcomes assessment” in its 1991 standards as a requirement for accredited institutions. At that time, the standards allowed significant flexibility in assessment processes including relying on indirect assessment measures, surveys of alumni, graduating students, employers, and other similar forms of feedback. In 2003, AACSB standards were changed to reflect the maturity of the “outcomes assessment” movement and need for improved accountability measures. The 2003 standards place emphasis on direct assessments of student learning. In mandating direct assessment, AACSB expects accredited institutions to formulate specific learning goals and conduct appropriate direct assessments of learning for purposes of improving curricula when deficiencies or opportunities for improvement are found.
The AOL standards support two principles which are the foundation of AACSB accreditation, accountability and continuous improvement. In terms of accountability, “ … Measures of learning can assure external constituents such as potential students, trustees, public officials, supporters, and accreditors, that the organization meets its goals” (AACSB 2007, p.60). In terms of continuous improvement, “ … By measuring learning the school can evaluate its students’ success at achieving learning goals, can use the measures to plan improvement efforts, and (depending on the type of measures) can provide feedback and guidance for individual students” (AACSB 2007, p.60).
Palomba and Banta (1999) define the outcomes assessment process as:
The systematic collection, review, and use of information about educational programs undertaken for the purpose of improving student learning and development (Palomba and Banta, 1999).
The outcomes assessment process should include:
1. Definition of student learning goals and objectives
2. Alignment of curricula with the adopted goals
3. Identification of instruments and measures to assess learning
4. Collection, analyzing, and dissemination of assessment information
5. Using assessment information for continuous improvement including documentation that the assessment process is being carried out in a systematic, ongoing basis. (AACSB
Assessment Resource Center, 2007)
Another form of the above steps can be stated as:
1. What will our students learn in our program? What are our expectations?
2. How will they learn it?
3. How will we know they have learned it or not?
4. What will we do if they have not learned it?
The remainder of the paper will review AACSB standards, the fundamentals of an outcomes assessment program, and the appendix addresses a series of “Frequently Asked Questions” related to the AOL standards and outcomes assessment practices.
Last updated : 2013-01-09