Important Indicators for Assessing Graduate Programs
Student Learning OutcomesTo what extent did students learn what faculty wanted them to learn?
Graduate programs typically require a range of assessments
that measure learning outcomes prompting students to demonstrate their mastery
of subject matter, quality of thought, dispositions toward clients and colleagues,
etc. These measurement points can be course-based and/or centered in a thesis
or culminating project, as appropriate to the learning outcomes. Measures
should be linked directly to stated outcomes goals and objectives (e.g.
students will be able to...) in order to identify students' strengths and
weaknesses and provide useful information for program improvement. Course
grades in general, and especially in graduate courses, do not typically
provide a level of information that can be used to make such improvements.
At what rate did the students who
entered the program complete it? Calculated as the percentage of students
entering the program in a given academic year who complete the program within
five years (for master's programs). For smaller programs, it will likely make
sense to track 3-year moving averages for degree completions.
Time to Degree
How long did it take students to complete the program? Calculated for degree
completers only as the time from entry into the program until degree completion.
Some universities will track time to degree from first entry into any graduate
program; this is the statistic tracked in the Survey of Earned Doctorates.
Scores or Pass Rates on Professional or Licensure Exams
How do the program's student compare to those at other institutions? Such
data are most useful when scores (raw or scaled) can be obtained for students
in the graduate program and compared to national benchmarks or more specific
comparison groups. Pass rates can provide an indicator of quality, although
often do not helpfully indicate where energy should be best directed to
improve the program.
Where do program graduates find employment and to what extent were they
prepared for these positions? There is little consistency in how job placement
is tracked across higher education. Most programs use this data as a marketing
tool rather than an assessment tool. There are ways to improve the usefulness
of this type of information, but the study but be thoughtfully designed
with significant faculty participation. Some national accreditors have guidelines
about collecting these data.
What do program graduates think about the program? These data can be hard
to collect systematically; nevertheless, they typically provide some insight
into what the most satisfied graduates of the program thought. Some of these
testimonies can be useful in promoting the program, although they can at
times provide some insight into broad areas that may need improvement. Some
national accreditors have guidelines about collecting these data.