Calls for evidence of student learning have maintained a commanding presence in higher education’s governance context. Several particularly notable national reports add historical milestones to the assessment movement in higher education. In 1986, the National Governor’s Association released Time for Results, which called for colleges and universities to develop national standards and assessment instruments showcasing broad, comparable evidence of student attainment on key competencies. In 1993, Bogue, Creech, and Folger summarized a litany of policy actions focused on assessing quality across the 16 member states of the Southern Regional Education Board. More than a decade later, the Spellings Commission in 2006 released A Test of Leadership, a report that demanded more evidence that students were prepared to meet employer needs, among other reforms.
Colleges and universities are expected by their regional accrediting body to:
identify and assess SLOs and IEIs consistent with the institution’s goals and mission;
conduct assessments of SLOs and IEIs on a periodic and cyclical basis, using the information to guide and document changes to programs, services, resources, and activities, and communicate the impact of the learning environment on students;
use the evidence of student learning and institutional effectiveness in institutional planning and resource allocation decisions; and
routinely assess the policies, processes, and practices governing assessment to ensure quality, consistency, and support of mission attainment.
In an evaluation of assessment-related policies among the seven regional accrediting bodies, Provezis (2010) found that each body (a) expects institutions to define, articulate, assess, and use SLOs to inform improvement; (b) utilizes the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions’ (2003) Principles for Good Practices in evaluating institutions’ assessment policies and practices; and, perhaps most notably, (c) reports deficiencies in assessment of student learning as the most common issue encountered in evaluating institutions for compliance with accreditation standards or principles. Further, under the past two administrations, the U.S. Department of Education has affirmed its expectations of regional accrediting bodies to evaluate institutions’ collection, use, and communication of SLOs to earn or maintain accreditation (Mitchell, 2016; U.S. Department of Education, 2018). Expectations for accountability have led many college and university leaders—including those in student affairs—to reevaluate campus assessment policies and practices.