Outcomes Assessment and Institutional Research
Through a process of outcomes assessment (OA) the American University of Rome seeks to assure itself, its stakeholders and the public that it is successfully fulfilling its mission and achieving the goals it has set itself. The results of continuous assessment can be used to inform decision making and planning so as to improve student learning and advance the institution. The assessment cycle provides a framework within which institutional programs and resources can be organized and coordinated in such a way as to achieve goals at program, department and institutional level, and allows us to build systematic and continuous enhancement of the quality of our educational provision and services into our daily activities.
The results of OA activity can be presented to prospective students, their parents and other stakeholders, through appropriate channels, including the AUR web site, and will contribute to building a reliable institutional profile for consultation by all interested parties.
AUR is committed to the concept of the assurance and enhancement of the quality of its educational provision and of institutional advancement though outcomes assessment. It has been engaging with outcomes assessment for several years and in June 2007 appointed a full-time Director of Assessment and Institutional Research (A&IR).
In undertaking OA we are focusing on the outcomes of the activities we have planned in order to achieve goals so that we evaluate how effective our work has been, and plan for future improvements using the information OA gives us. We have done this in four clearly defined stages.
The Four-Step Planning-Assessment Cycle
- Establish clearly defined goals in all areas of AUR’s work
- Develop and implement strategies to achieve these goals in all areas
- Measure and record outcomes for these goals in all areas
- Analyze and evaluate the results (the actual outcome against the intended goal) and use them to guide us in making improvements).
Institutional Research for Institutional Effectiveness
The assessment of institutional effectiveness is primarily concerned with ascertaining the extent to which the University as a whole is achieving its mission and goals, but involves close examination of many discrete areas of University activity at institutional, departmental or intra-departmental level.
Again the four-step planning-assessment cycle is used:
- i. clear institutional and unit-level goals are defined;
- ii. strategies to achieve these goals are implemented;
- iii. achievement of these goals is assessed;
- iv. the results of assessments are used to improve services and inform decisions on planning and resource allocation.
Institutional effectiveness can be assessed across all units, either individually, in various combinations, or taken together holistically (see 2.3 above).
Three main ways of assessing institutional effectiveness at AUR have been identified: i) institutional research in key areas of activity, including assessment of student learning goals; ii) assessment through the Strategic Plan; iii) assessment of Departmental Goals (other than student learning goals). These different assessment processes may run concurrently in any one year and will together contribute to build an overall picture of the institution.
Reporting of Outcomes Assessment and Institutional Research
The Dean’s Office produces a series of reports, surveys and databases, made available to the University each year. Foremost among these is the Institutional Outcomes Assessment Report (IOAR) bringing together all the outcomes assessment and institutional research carried out in the previous academic year.