Assessment at South

Culture of Assessment

The University of South Alabama is committed to demonstrating the effectiveness and value of the programs and services that contribute to the university’s ability to achieve its goals and fulfill its mission. Assessment works best as an ongoing process. We aim to cultivate a strong and comprehensive institutional culture of assessment.

This assessment page serves as a source of transparency and provides guidelines for the growth of assessment at the University of South Alabama.

Assessment is non-punitive.

  • Assessment is a process to identify solid practices and practices that should be changed or improved.
  • Effective assessment depends on reliable results and honest reflection, neither of which should be used punitively.

Assessment is comprehensive.

  • Meaningful results are derived using multiple valid methods: direct and indirect, qualitative and quantitative, formative and summative.

Assessment is well documented.

  • All departments, programs, and services must systematically collect and document evidence showing how well they achieve their mission and goals.

If you have questions or would like assistance, please email


▼   What is assessment?
Assessment is an ongoing, iterative, mission-driven process that uses the results from measured outcomes to improve educational programs and student support services operations.
▼   Why do we do assessment?
The University of South Alabama (USA) conducts assessments to improve student learning, program quality, and effectiveness of services, and to create a culture of data-informed inquiry through an iterative process of planning, evidence collection, reporting, analysis, and action.
▼   Why should assessment be aligned with the university, department, and division mission?
Assessment should be aligned with the mission of the university, department, and division to assist in widening improvement across multi-levels, improving student learning, and advancing the strategic priorities and effectiveness of USA. Closely aligning the mission of the units allows for reinforcement of the unit’s goals and the university’s goals. 
▼   What are the benefits of assessment?
  • Benefits for faculty

An outcomes-oriented approach to instruction provides faculty with valid and meaningful evidence of student learning, which can inform and facilitate conversations at the institution-level, department-level, or course-level about curricular planning, staffing, and space.


  • Benefits for students

An outcomes-oriented approach to instruction encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning by focusing on course and program goals. Students who understand what is expected of them are better equipped to assess their own mastery, seek assistance as needed, and make progress toward successful and timely degree completion.

▼   Why is having an assessment plan important?
Assessment plans lay out the data needed to answer assessment questions and ensure that assessment implementation remains on track. 
▼   Is assessment used to evaluate faculty?
No, assessment is used to measure and improve student learning and the quality and effectiveness of student support services.
▼   Isn’t assessing and grading the same thing?
No, assessment and grades are not used for the same purpose. Assessment takes a more broad approach to student learning than grading does. Grades don’t explain the student’s proficiency at a particular learning outcome in detail.
▼   Why should I do a Curriculum Map?
A curriculum map not only shows the sequence of course programs, it is a visual connection between outcomes at all levels that can be used to identify gaps or redundancy in content.
▼   What are the differences between learning objectives and learning outcomes?
Learning objectives identify the learning behavior and criteria. Learning outcomes are specific observable/measurable statements of the learning or mastery students achieve.
▼   How is assessment related to accreditation?

The purpose of accreditation is to demonstrate accountability to external audiences on the university’s commitment to educational achievement and continuous improvement.

Assessment is an internal process that provides evidence of the university’s commitment to accountability. 

▼   Why are the faculty/staff in each program asked to discuss assessment plans and data? Can’t we just have one person fill out the form?

The primary purpose of assessment is to improve student learning, program quality, and the effectiveness of services. Assessment data is only beneficial when used to improve or maintain performance.

The meaning of assessment data, and how to use that data to improve the program, must be decided as part of a larger discussion about the goals and needs of the program. When faculty/staff discuss the goals, needs, and achievements of their students and programs, they are better able to work toward desired outcomes in a coordinated manner. Multiple faculty/staff members are needed to create a useful assessment plan for the programs and units.

▼   Are certificate programs required to complete individual assessment plans and gather data?

Only stand-alone certificate programs are required to undergo individual assessment. We define stand-alone certificates as academic credit-bearing certificates not embedded in an existing degree program. A standalone certificate program is available to both degree and non-degree-seeking students

▼   What is the difference between direct and indirect measures?

Direct measures involve collecting data from the demonstration of knowledge, capabilities, skills, and ways of thinking related to the learning objectives by students. Indirect measures approach assessment differently, this technique involves collecting data without the demonstration component.

Direct Measures

  • Essays/Papers
  • Analyses of senior theses
  • Projects
  • Standardized Exams
  • Presentations
  • Lab Assignments
  • Performance Evaluations
  • Case Study Analysis 

Indirect Measures

  • Exit Interviews
  • Surveys of recent graduates
  • Focus Groups
  • Course Evaluations 
▼   Who can help me with assessment or Program Review?

Please contact the Office of Institutional Effectiveness for all questions and concerns with assessment-related and APR inquiries

The assessment handbook is a comprehensive guide to the assessment process at the University of South Alabama. It provides detailed information and guidance on best practices for measuring and improving student learning outcomes, as well as tools and templates for the components of an assessment report, data collection, and analysis. The handbook is designed to support faculty, staff, and administrators in their efforts to ensure the quality and effectiveness of our academic programs, administrative units, and student support services.

If you have questions or would like assistance, please email


Assessment Handbook


Administrative Units Academic Programs Academic and Support Services

Third Friday:
Reports due for AY reporting units


Third Friday:
Reports due


Third Friday:
Feedback has been given to AY reporting units

Third Thursday:
Reports due

Third Friday: 
Feedback given

Third Friday:
Reports due for FY reporting units


First Week:
Final Report Due

January Third Friday: 
Feedback provided to FY reporting units
Second Week:
Feedback provided to Academic Programs 

Third Thursday:
Corrected report submissions due


Third Friday:
Assessment Plans Due


Third Friday:
Assessment Plans Due