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Getting the Most Out of PAR: Creating an Action-Oriented and Collegial Assessment Process

Your program has completed the Program Assessment Report (PAR) process once or twice, and you have feedback from the peer reviewers. So now what? In this post, we’ll share some ways to get the most out of PAR by focusing on your action items and fostering a collegial and collaborative assessment process in your program.

Goals for Program Assessment

Two people lean over table who are working on a project

While assessment is a requirement for university accreditation, ultimately, assessment should focus on student learning. Thus, at Boise State, two key principles are that assessment

    • Produces meaningful and actionable information that programs can use to improve teaching and student learning
    • Is favored by a collaborative, collegial process in which the community of educators engages with evidence of student learning.

Your program determines how these principles work within your specific context, but you can plan your assessment efforts around the ways your action items (actions taken/planned that you report on your PAR during each 3-year cycle) allow you engage with evidence of how your students learn–and how that evidence can drive changes you make to improve student success.

#1: Review actions and feedback

As a first step in this process, return to your most recent PAR and review the action items listed on Template II. Note what action items still need to be addressed, and/or have emerged since you last completed this report. Items identified in this process can provide a roadmap for where to move your assessment process forward. Do you have multiple action items? Then review the list and identify which action items could have the most positive impact on student learning and success. The goal is not to do as many things as possible but to identify what areas are feasible in your context and would best support students.

After you review these items, return to the feedback provided by the PAR peer reviewers. How might their suggestions provide insight into how to move your action items forward?  For example, one bit of feedback one of my programs received was that reviewers couldn’t see the connections between what we shared as findings and our action plans. While we did have some data, we used this comment to identify other places in our curriculum where we could further assess student development as well as provide students with more opportunities to master an outcome that will matter to them as professionals.

As this example shows, reviewer feedback can help your program determine directions and select actions that will be most impactful for student learning. As one participant noted in a recent workshop, reviewer comments can also validate the sense you already have about strengths and gaps in the program that you can aim to address.

#2: Consider feasibility–and how to involve more people

After you examine actions taken/planned and review PAR feedback, you might find yourself with more ideas than you can feasibly act on. What you then want to consider is what makes sense for your program (as a whole) to take action on in the shorter term. What can you do this semester? What could you accomplish by the end of the year?

If the guiding principle is deciding what best supports student learning, then you might opt to prioritize actions that would have the most impact on students. You can then collect data about how it works and what you might tweak to continue to improve.

The goal here is not to create the perfect assessment measure or to solve every problem, but to consider how to make progress and move forward. When we approach assessment with continuous improvement in mind, we try something, reflect on what we found together, and make plans to move forward. Sometimes these efforts are more time bound, and sometimes they may be multi-semester/year plans, but starting somewhere is the best bet for beginning this process.

If moving forward on the action items feels overwhelming, consider ways to engage more faculty and stakeholders in the assessment process. How can assessment bring faculty together around the shared goals of supporting students? The next section provides some suggestions.

#3: Collegial and collaborative

To fully meet the goals of the assessment process, consider the broad range of ways you can make assessment collaborative and collegial. This document offers a few examples of undergraduate and graduate programs who are using assessment to collaborate with various stakeholders. As you review these examples, consider what might be most useful for implementing the action items you’ve identified–and what currently works in your assessment process.

As you answer these questions and have conversations within your program, keep in mind the resources available to support your work. You can attend CTL workshops and other events focused on assessment, and you can reach out to set up a consultation. Consultations can be one-on-one with the lead faculty, or with a group of faculty doing this work. You can also check out the resources on the Program Assessment Reporting web page.

Ultimately, assessment should be driven by the goals of your program and what you determine would best support your students as they move through your degree. These approaches offer one way to leverage assessment work to take action in your program to improve student learning and foster collegiality and collaboration throughout the continuous improvement process.


CTL Consultation Request Form: use this form to request a consultation from the CTL

Program Assessment Reporting: This page provides a number of resources for faculty/staff engaged in the PAR process, including results, examples, and help documentation.

Written by:

Jenn Mallette, Faculty Associate