> The Hierarchy of Assessment: Mission, Goals, Outcomes, and Performance Objectives
The ‘Top-Down’ Flow of Mission → Goals → Intended Outcomes → Performance Objectives
In its outcomes assessment plan, the academic business unit must:
- Include a statement of its mission;
- Articulate broad-based student learning and operational goals;
- Determine intended student learning outcomes for each business program and intended operational outcomes for the business unit;
- Identify learning assessment and operational assessment measures, instruments, and metrics that will be used to assess the intended outcomes;
- Specify performance objectives for the learning assessment and operational assessment measures.
For more information on the IACBE’s requirements pertaining to the outcomes assessment process, see Key Content Areas of an Outcomes Assessment Plan.
The process of outcomes assessment as described above possesses the following hierarchical structure:
- The mission of the academic business unit describes the overarching purpose of the unit, provides strategic direction for the unit, and should drive the unit’s decision making for all of its activities and operations.
- Broad-based student learning and operational goals flow from the mission and describe the general aims and aspirations of the business unit. They should be consistent with the academic business unit’s mission in the sense that each broad-based goal should be associated with, contribute to, and mapped to some aspect of the unit’s mission. The main function of the broad-based goals is to provide a link between the academic business unit’s broadly-stated mission and the more specific intended outcomes for the unit (as described in #3 below). The broad-based goals then become a blueprint for implementing the business unit’s mission and for developing measurable intended outcomes relating to student learning and operational effectiveness.
- For each business program, intended student learning outcomes flow from the academic business unit’s broad-based student learning goals and clearly describe in precise and measurable terms what students should know and be able to do upon completion of their degree programs. Similarly, intended operational outcomes flow from the business unit’s broad-based operational goals and clearly describe the specific desired results for the unit’s critical success factors (CSFs) or key performance indicators (KPIs) relating to its resources and processes that will be evaluated in the determination of the operational effectiveness of the business unit. The flow of intended outcomes from broad-based goals indicates that each goal should have one or more intended outcomes associated with it, and that each intended outcome should be related or mapped to at least one broad-based goal.
- Once intended outcomes have been determined, the academic business unit must then identify the measures, instruments, or metrics that will be used to assess the intended outcomes. In the case of student learning assessment, each intended student learning outcome must be assessed by at least two different measures of student learning, at least one of which must be a direct measure. In the case of operational assessment, each intended operational outcome must be assessed by at least one operational assessment measure, instrument, or metric.
- Once the assessment measures, instruments, and metrics for the intended outcomes have been identified, the academic business unit must specify the performance objectives for each measure, instrument, and metric. Performance objectives are the desired measurable results (or targets) for the assessment measures, instruments, and metrics, and are used to determine whether the intended outcomes have been achieved.
This hierarchical structure of the outcomes assessment process is illustrated in the following graphic:
The Hierarchy of Outcomes Assessment
- ABU: Academic Business Unit
- CSFs: Critical Success Factors
- KPIs: Key Performance Indicators
- DML: Direct Measure of Learning
- IML: Indirect Measure of Learning
- OAM: Operational Assessment Measure
Note: In the graphic above, the indirect measures of learning may be replaced by direct measures.
For more information on the relationships between mission, broad-based goals, intended outcomes, and performance objectives, see Goals, Outcomes, and Objectives.
The ‘Bottom-Up’ Flow of Outcomes Assessment: Evidence of Achievement of Intended Outcomes → Broad-Based Goals → Mission
With the linkage between mission / broad-based goals / intended outcomes / performance objectives organized according to the hierarchical structure described above:
- Data generated through the student learning and operational assessment processes (i.e., through the implementation of the learning assessment and operational assessment measures, instruments, and metrics) will constitute evidence of the extent of accomplishment of the intended outcomes.
- Which constitutes evidence of the extent of accomplishment of the broad-based goals.
- Which in turn constitutes evidence of the extent to which the academic business unit is accomplishing its mission.