Frequently Asked Questions

All academic programs listed in the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) program inventory as well as administrative units included in the MSU Organizational Chart are expected to participate in assessment.

Short answer—we want to improve and do better!

To explain further—continuous improvement of our programs and services are important priorities for educators who want to do everything possible to prepare students to perform well in society, in the workplace, or in graduate school. Assessment allows faculty and staff to report the specific learning and/or service outcomes they desire for their students and to collect solid evidence of how well those outcomes have been achieved.

Assessment is also required to maintain institutional accreditation as well as specialized program accreditation. The Department of Education and regional accreditations such as Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), MSU’s regional accrediting body, place a particularly heavy emphasis on assessment. Student achievement is one of the core requirements of SACSCOC’s Principles of Accreditation. As most accreditation bodies, SACSCOC requires evidence of assessment of student learning and continuous improvement.

Assessment plans are submitted via SPOL Assessment Platform by October 1 of each academic year while assessment reports are due on September 15 of the subsequent year.

The Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE) receives all assessment plans and reports via SPOL and checks for their completeness and accuracy. Then, OIE approves plans and reports in SPOL for the University Assessment Committee (UAC) to review and evaluate using an established rubric to help programs and administrative units improve their planning and reporting submissions.

Every year, we are required to assess at least one outcome. All articulated outcomes must be assessed over a 3-year period.

In general, academic programs with multiple emphasis (i.e., tracks, concentrations, and specializations) follow the same core/required courses in their curricula. Hence, academic programs may opt for a unified assessment approach and provide supplementary measures that occurs in emphasis-related courses at least once within a 3-year assessment cycle. Doing so shows that each emphasis is also being assessed independently. For more information about assessment with multiple emphasis, please refer to our MSU Policy Guidelines - Assessment of Educational Programs.

Yes. Most of our students are not enrolled in the certificate program. Students may be awarded because they are enrolled in the larger degree credential and may only apply for the certificate after the fact.  In any case, MSU still has an obligation to maintain the integrity of the certificate programs as a cohesive and distinct credential. For more information about assessment of certificate programs, please refer to our MSU Policy Guidelines - Assessment of Educational Programs

Yes. We follow a 3-year assessment cycle. To know the assessment cycle and status of your outcomes, please log in to your SPOL account and check the “Status” section within the “All Assessment by Program or Service Area.” You can also contact us at and ask about the details of your program or administrative unit assessment cycle.

Each outcome should be assessed using multiple measures or assessment tools. At the minimum, each outcome to be assessed by:

Administrative units/departments must have two measures; at least one must be a direct measure.
Academic programs must have one formative assessment and one summative assessment; at least one must be a direct measure.

To learn more about assessment measures, please refer to our Assessment Measure Resources.

Both activities are used to measure the degrees to which students have learned certain concepts. However, grading is measured upon individual students whereas assessment focuses on the performance and gains of an entire cohort of students. Also, grades do not provide meaningful information on exactly what a student has learned. Assessments, however, address precisely the areas of strengths and weakness that students are having within the curriculum. A grade of a "B" does not accurately detail which elements of the curriculum were mastered and which were not.

No. MSU is evaluated by SACSCOC not on the number of outcomes we meet, but on the quality of evidence. “Closing the loop,” the process where faculty or staff take time to reflect on assessment results, document the changes and improvements made, examine whether implemented changes have been successful or unsuccessful, and finally discuss the next steps are the major goals of assessment. Closing the loop is also one way to provide evidence that assessment information is shared and discussed with appropriate constituents to provide meaningful information about the effectiveness of our programs, services, and operations.

All academic and non-academic assessment plans and reports are evaluated by the University Assessment Committee using established rubrics.

The assessment information collected (e.g., measures and findings) out of individual assessment plan and report are used to complete our institutional assessment report. These data help create narratives that talk about the institutional goal achievements as well as program/service changes and improvements. In addition, these data provide evidentiary documents needed for MSU’s fifth-year and decennial reports that we submit to SACSCOC to maintain our accreditation status.

Yes. Although most professional accrediting bodies require evidence that programs or departments are measuring student learning, some still do not. More importantly, we are still accountable to our institutional accreditation body (SACSCOC) for the assessment of student learning and success.

Assessment information may need to be revised or developed as programs or administrative units evolve so that they remain current and relevant in the discipline or department. Any changes or modifications to program or unit assessment profile will need to submit a proposal using the Assessment Profile Change Proposal Form. For questions about assessment information changes, please contact Institutional Assessment at

Student learning and success are the major components for determining institutional effectiveness. Moreover, it is important for programs and administrative units to assess their outcomes with the mission and goals of the college/school, department, and institution in mind. Having this core principle established and integrated into the assessment activities of academic programs and administrative units, the best data will be available for assessing MSU’s mission as well as strategic attributes and initiatives.

Remember: We are not “graded” on the number of outcomes we meet, but on our efforts to collect meaningful information about student learning and success, and on how we use that information to improve and do better!

Students benefit from good assessment practices because:

  • Assessment expectations help students to understand where they should focus their time and energies;
  • Assessment feedback helps students understand their strengths and weaknesses;
  • Assessment information gives students documentation of what they have learned that they can use to apply for jobs, awards, and programs of advanced study.

Faculty benefit from good assessment practices because:

  • Assessment activities bring faculty together to discuss important issues such as what they teach, how they teach, and what their standards and expectations are;
  • Assessment activities help faculty see how their courses link together to form coherent programs and how the courses contribute to student success in subsequent pursuits;
  • Assessment results can be used as compelling evidence of the quality of their teaching when they apply for tenure and promotion.

Administrators benefit from assessment because:

  • Assessment information documenting the success of a program or institution can be used to convince employers, donors, legislators, and other constituents of its quality and worth;
  • Assessment can help ensure that institutional resources are being spent in the most effective ways possible–where they’ll have the greatest impact on student learning;
  • Assessment can help administrators make informed decisions about such matters as resource allocations and faculty hires.

Absolutely! Assessment is a collaborative effort. Office of Institutional Effectiveness is here to support all your assessment needs, but you are still the experts of your own field and we would love to hear all your ideas. Please reach out any time and send us assessment-related information at


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