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Assessing Programs

Assessing Programs

A few years ago Mason committed to a once-every-seven-year evaluation of all degree programs not assessed through an external accreditation mechanism. We’re in the season where reports are beginning to come in, which prompt some comment on the overall effort.

The commitment emanated both from a sense that we owed it to ourselves to look at our own programs systematically, and from awareness that our own accreditors (whose visit is now imminent) would probably push us in this direction anyway.

As some colleagues have pointed out, the need for several (sometimes many) program faculty to participate in generating self-reports is time consuming, at a point when obligations seem to multiply. I must confess in this case that my sympathy is tempered by the real belief that recurrently taking a look at program goals and outcomes is simply something we should be doing, even though in the good old days the effort was not required.

But the main point is to commend the many Mason faculty who participate in looking at their programs, and the dedicated faculty external to programs who examine and critique the results and produce their own reports. The dedication and intelligence applied are almost always quite impressive.

Of course we sometimes learn about things that need new work, and we almost always gain some suggestions about improvements. That’s the point, of course. But it’s only because lots of people are candid and committed that the whole operation works. As well, I must note, the guiding efforts of our own assessment professionals make this a programs that is paying off, institutionally and for the students involved.