Assessment, Evaluation, and Research Knowledge Community
The ToolKit is designed to assist assessment professionals in the development and management of effective programs of assessment, evaluation, and research within divisions of student affairs.
This page will be continuously populated with a variety of resources to assist in assessment, evaluation, and research as information is shared between members of the Regional Knowledge Community.
An informative overview of assessment in higher education by Marilee Bresciani, Ph.D. and Carrie Zelna, Ph.D. from North Carolina State University can be accessed at:
and another from
Demystifying Assessment, Evaluation, and Research
Assessment, evaluation, and research are concepts referred to as necessary in institutions of higher education, and indeed they are of vital necessity. Unfortunately, these concepts are often misunderstood to the degree that they evoke fear, when in reality, they are very simple. In the end, any assessment, evaluation, and research endeavors merely to discover whether or not "something" is working and to what degree that "something" works. The decision to employ methods typical of assessment, evaluation, or research is guided in great part by what we are attempting to discover.
The three approaches of assessment, evaluation, and research have a great deal of overlap and drawing clear lines of distinction between them is difficult at best. But to assist in some greater understanding of them, the following broad definitions are provided.
The process of assessment focuses on the identification and measurement of how well students acquire specific outcomes in one or more of the functional domains of cognition (thoughts), behavior (actions), and affect (feelings) . As a result of accurate assessment, institutional responses to meeting student needs can be specific and focused, and as a result, improve effectiveness, efficiency, and appropriate allocation of resources, including money and human capital. Assessment should be regarded as continuous and embraced by the institution's culture, rather than a grudgingly accepted "add-on" in response to external demands for accountability.
In the end, institutions and their multitude of functional units should regard assessment as a useful tool to inform decision-making and for the continuous improvement in their ability to support and improve overall student learning.
While assessment tends to focus on specific elements of a program, evaluation is seen as focusing on entire programs. Programs should be mission-driven and complement the meeting of student (and other constituents) learning objectives and needs from a holistic perspective. Like assessment, program evaluation seeks to collect data upon which informed decisions can be made, and to assure effective and efficient operations within the functional unit. Evaluation is typically regarded as broader than assessment, yet in the end, produces the same kind of information.
Research has many of the same elements of assessment and evaluation, but is unique in that it typically focuses on the "truth" of certain assumptions articulated as a research question or questions. As in assessment and evaluation, research findings can guide decision-making. Research methodology seeks to define and measure cause-and-effect relationships (or in some cases, correlation) and is often employed to inform decision-makers of the propriety and effectiveness of new programs or elements of a program.