Assurance for Learning

Ongoing Assessment for Accreditation

Marian maintains accreditation by establishing student learning outcomes, creating assessment plans, and implementing those plans to demonstrate evidence of student learning.

marian core values

  • Assessment Plans: How do we plan to assess student learning at all levels, in all areas?

  • Use of Evidence: How does Marian University act on evidence of student learning?

  • Assessment Resources: How can I learn more about student learning outcome assessment in higher education?

  • Student Learning Outcomes

Marian University provides educational experiences based on its teaching mission as a Catholic liberal arts university. We continually assesses how well we develop our students’ capacity to act in accordance with our core values of learning, community, service, social justice, and spiritual traditions. As an institution, we’ve identified crucial student and organizational learning outcomes that, when assessed, provide evidence of the quality of our work to achieve the teaching mission.

Knowledge Acquisition: Students use analytical skills to research, interpret, and evaluate information within a variety of learning contexts.

Effective Communication: Students appreciate, comprehend, and critically evaluate written, oral, and visual communication and use a variety of means to express themselves effectively.

Critical Thinking: Students use various modes of inquiry to solve complex problems in multiple contexts involving interpretation, evaluation, analysis, and inference

Global Perspectives: Students understand the impact of culture* on individual and group beliefs and actions.

Socially Responsible Action: Students develop a personal sense of social justice.

  • Assessment Plans

Marian University’s Institutional Self-Study and Evaluation system includes planning at three levels, in all functional areas – including academic and co-curricular programs, student engagement, and administrative support and governance.

assessment plans

Systematic assessment and assurance for learning is an open cycle of research in action.  Action takes place at three levels – the course or activity, the program, and the institution – and focuses on gathering valid evidence of learning outcomes. Once that evidence is gathered, it is evaluated.  Did we learn as intended? What worked? What didn’t?

We then come together to respond to the evidence. Is there research that might explain what we see? What do we know from our collective scholarship, expertise and perspectives that relates to this challenge? What do we decide to do?

Once we’ve reached a decision, we then design a response and plan to put it into…action again.  But the action is not the same as the one we took before, and it is taken in response to a different challenge. Over time, this action research cycle leads to changes in the policy, practices, and structures of Marian University as we work to become as effective as possible in achieving our mission.

  • Current Assessment Processes

Marian University’s Institutional Self-Study and Evaluation system includes planning at three levels, in all functional areas – including academic and co-curricular programs, student engagement, and administrative support and governance.

Designing and sustaining a system for assuring learning in accord with Marian University’s core values is a grassroots process.  Our current design and strategic plan is the third iteration of a process first undertaken in 1992 with the formation of the Taskforce on the Assessment of Academic Outcomes.

Over time, Marian has identified important learning outcomes; our programs have designed plans to systematically assess learning aligned to those outcomes.  Programs use that evidence of learning to make decisions about curriculum, development, and resource use.

As an institution, Marian University uses the embedded assessment of learning in programs, and performance on nationally normed assessments of both learning and engagement to benchmark our effectiveness in assuring our highly valued learning outcomes.

  • Evidence of Student Learning

Marian University holds a core value for learning as a lifelong process of development and transformation, expressed as follows:

We engage in a collaborative lifelong process of seeking truth and appropriating knowledge and values to transform the individual, our communities and the world.

This value is at the heart of our teaching mission, and is embedded in the processes that we use to assess learning and evaluate our effectiveness in achieving the education of the whole person to both transform and be transformed. Where do we find evidence of student learning that will aid us in achieving this goal?

Learning in the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum (LACC)

In 2006, Marian University was inspired to develop a liberal arts core curriculum that developed the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind that reflect the promise that liberal education holds for the future of the United States and of the world. This learning is considered foundational to learning in all undergraduate programs offered through the institution. Evidence of foundational student learning comes from embedded assessment measures in the courses that comprise the core.

Developing Expertise and Mastery:
Learning in Academic and Co-Curricular Programs

All academic programs and co-curricular experiences such are designed to build upon foundational learning and develop expertise and a level of mastery within a discipline or field. Learning outcomes and mastery benchmarks are differentiated at the undergraduate and graduate program levels. The evidence of developing expertise and mastery is based on assessment processes aligned to national standards in the discipline and often include nationally normed assessments of learning completed at during the final semester in the program.

Learning Through Higher Education at Marian University

Learning at Marian University doesn’t take place only in classrooms. It takes place in a space that is defined by the people,communities, shared activities, physical space, and intellectual traditions we encounter through Marian University. We all learn from each other through our engagement in designed activities and projects. We also learn when we work together to resolve unscripted and unexpected challenges encountered along the way. Evidence of student learning through engagement is based on measures and processes aligned to CAS Student Learning and Development Outcomes.

  • Use of Student Learning Evidence

Evidence of student learning at Marian University is used at three levels to inform the decisions and actions that govern learning.

Learning Through Courses and Activities

Faculty and staff develop learning targets for courses and activities, and assess student learning in relation to those targets.Pacing, materials, readings, activities and expectations are fine-tuned based on an evaluation of evidence of learning through the course. Assessment of learning in courses is one source of evidence for learning in the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum (LACC) and in most degree programs.

Learning Through Programs

Academic programs and schools evaluate three to five year trends in student learning outcomes and use evidence of student learning to make decisions relating to major curricular and administrative changes such as changes in course descriptions and pre-requisites, development of new programs, requests for new faculty positions, and changes in annual budget allocations.

Learning Through Higher Education at Marian University

Marian University uses evidence of student learning at the institutional level to evaluate the quality of programs, the effectiveness of engagement, and the effectiveness of allocation of institutional resources in supporting and sustaining high rates of program completion, persistence, retention, and desired post-graduate career and advanced learning outcomes.

Use of Student Learning Evidence Links

  • Assessment Resources

Marian University faculty, staff and students have accessed several excellent resources in the design of the current iteration of our system for assuring student learning outcomes.

These resources include:

  • research on learning, assessment, evaluation, organizational culture, and organizational change
  • reviews of emerging best practices in the design of sustainable systems of learning outcomes assessment in higher education
  • shared inquiry into the practice of assessing student learning outcomes through participation in the HLC Academy for the Assessment of Student Learning
  • tools to support design, planning, implementation, and evaluation of student learning outcomes and systems of assurance for learning, and
  • standards, guidelines, principles, and recommendations of national and international organizations of institutions