There are six assessment elements in the continuous improvement planning for SACS. They are: (1) Goals, (2) Objectives, (3) Indicators, (4) Criteria, (5) findings, (6) Actions. Each element is linked to a template for that specific goal, as an example. Additionally, each element is defined
Goals - A broadly stated intention, aspiration or ambition that is realistically achievable, if not today, then, tomorrow. It is not required that the goals(s) be directly measurable. A goal establishes a desired result an individual or organization commits to achieve within a specified time frames. For continuous improvement planning at SHSU, goal setting reflects the mission of the program, office, department or division.
Objectives - An objective is a result or outcome that an organization seeks to achieve in pursing its basic mission. They provide direction, assistance in evaluation, create synergistic opportunities, establish priorities, provide an environment for effective planning of activities. An objective should be SMART, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound(Doran, 1981).
Indicators - The indicator for a learning objective - The observable and measurable evidence of whether or not the learning outcome is achieved. Direct Indicators of Learning Outcomes are generally represented as tests (or specific portions of tests), rubric-driven subjective measurements, or juried reviews and evaluations of the targeted learning. Indirect Indicators of Learning Outcomes often include surveys in which students are asked to report about how well they have mastered the course material.
When describing the Indicator, one should include information about the type of measurement and method being used to obtain the measurement. This should include a description of the steps taken to ensure that the measurement instrument and the measurement method are appropriate for capturing evidence of the targeted learning, that they are standardized within the program and consistent across courses, professors and terms. Copies of or examples from instruments being used should be attached, if necessary.
Indicator for a Performance Objective - The Indicator for a Performance Outcome is the observable and measurable evidence of whether or not the performance objective is satisfied. Performance Outcome Indicators are often represented by measurements of comparative improvements in quantities, proportions, and rates and/or in constituency satisfaction levels. When describing the indicator, one should include information about the type of measurement and method being used to obtain the measurements and why they are appropriate for capturing evidence of the desired performance outcome. An indicator is a measure of an objective, performance in a specific area.
Criteria - a criterion is a specific target, standard, or benchmark that, if met, is indicative of success. This target must be determined prior to the collection of data and must be directly aimed at a specific indicator. Criteria are desired outcomes, and as such, should be set high. Not fully satisfying a criterion should not be seen as a failure on the part of the office/department/program; rather, it should be viewed as an opportunity for continuous improvement.
When an Objective specifies IMPROVEMENT as an outcome, the Criterion must state both the benchmark to which the Indicator measurement will be compare, and the increase that will be expected
Findings - a qualitative or quantitative indicator that uniquely identifies the result or outcome. A finding is the result or conclusion derived from an assessment. Findings report the results obtained after measuring the targeted learning or performance outcome in the manner specified by the Indicator. The Finding description should include a detailed summary of the assessment results. Documents should be attached, if possible. Findings must be described even in situations where a criterion is met or exceeded
Actions - an action is a process causing intentional activities to further accomplish a goal. An Action is the program, department or office response to one or more findings about the outcome of a targeted objective. The Action should specifically describe how assessment findings were considered, reflected upon, and used to motivate or shape activities and/or policies to improve the program, department, or office. Actions may include creation of new procedures, changes in curriculum, purchase of new software, etc.). Even when a criterion is met or exceeded, a specific, and detailed, action is required to demonstrate that the office/department/program reflected upon the results of the assessment process and considered what it would do to maintain or improve the successful targeted outcome for the next year.