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graphic detailing the process of closing the loop for continuous improvement
Infinity infographic titled Closing the Loop: A Continuous Process of Improvement. The infographic has eight sections looking like arrows and stating a step in the Continuous Process of Improvement. The left side is titled in the center with Most Urgent Needs with four sections saying 1. Identify continued areas of improvement. 2. Plan actions that will lead to improvement. 3. Execute the actions in the plan. 4. Evaluate, measure, and review the results. The right side of the infinity symbol it titled in the center New Area of Improvement with four sections saying 1. Identify new areas of improvement. 2. Plan, develop actions that will lead to improvement. 3. Execute the actions in the plan. 4. Evaluate, measure, and review the results.

What is Assessment?

Assessment is the evaluation of performance, a process to measure the effectiveness of efforts that improve student learning, student achievement, and administrative support services.

Why Assess?

We assess so we can improve. Continuous improvement is a gradual, never-ending change focused on increasing the effectiveness of organizational functions that accomplish our mission.  Annually, all university units will evaluate their performance over the preceding year to determine if they met their objectives and identify additional opportunities for improvement. Unit plans reside in Nuventive Improve, the university’s assessment platform, and consist of unit goals, performance objectives, success criteria, and a description of the actions required to accomplish the objectives.

How Can Assessment Be Effective?

Effective Assessment requires a systematic process involving faculty, staff, and administration focused on:

  • Planning goals/objectives/outcomes associated with performance improvement
  • Developing strategies to achieve those goals
  • Determining the best method to measure the performance
  • Executing the strategy as planned
  • Evaluating the results
  • Formulating and implementing actions for improvement
  • Continuing the cycle to address new goals/objectives/outcomes

Nuventive Improve is the mechanism SFA uses to document this process. See the Nuventive Improve User's Guide for assistance.

Unit Assessment

All administrative and academic units (e.g., colleges, schools, departments, divisions, and offices) are required to develop goals and objectives focused on improving organizational performance in support of the university mission and assess them annually.

Academic Program Assessment

Student learning and student success is the ultimate outcome of SFA’s dedication to excellence in teaching and the personal attention we give our students. Effective academic programs focus on the design and improvement of educational experiences to enhance student learning. All academic programs (e.g., degree programs and certificate programs) are required to develop student learning outcomes focused on improving student attainment of program learning outcomes and assess them annually.

Ten Principles of Meaningful Assessment

  1. You have more data than you think you do. Go find it.
  2. Assessment should not be redundant. Instruments should be compared to gauge overlap, gaps and deficits.
  3. Big sample sizes don’t equal progress. You need as much evidence as it will take to move the conversation forward.
  4. Students should not receive assessment. Assessment should be part of the learning process.
  5. If you collect it, you should use it – the good data, the bad data and the ugly data.
  6. What students think isn’t necessarily what they can do. Assessment of student learning should be both indirect and direct.
  7. Assessment should reflect, match and advance the institutional mission.
  8. Remember Plato: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” If you need it, create your own assessment.
  9. Assessment isn’t just for outcomes. Assessment is for inputs, processes and outputs, too.
  10. Assessment is only as good (and as limited) as your assumptions allow it to be.


Ashley Finley
Association of American Colleges and Universities
January 2015

Download the Ten Principles of Meaningful Assessment


Office of Institutional Effectiveness

Liberal Arts North
Room 425

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 6172, SFA Station
Nacogdoches, Texas 75962