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Swarthmore College

Department Overview

Assessment is studying how well a particular activity is achieving its goals, and then using what is learned to change that activity as necessary. These pages describe Swarthmore's assessment processes, provide information about College assessment activities, and present broad institutional indicators. At the bottom of this page are links to resources for members of the College community conducting assessment.

From our Strategic Plan, approved by the Board of Managers in December 2011:

The College is committed to assessment

Swarthmore has placed a high priority on assessment for many years. Throughout our history, our periodic reviews of curricular elements such as the Honors Program, our participation in research with consortia of peer institutions, and our constant attention to the effectiveness of our work as teachers, scholars, and administrators has been part of our stewardship of the College. In 2006, we formally articulated a plan to make these efforts more systematic. Throughout the strategic planning process, the importance of ongoing assessment for new initiatives as well as ongoing programs has been underscored. As the College uses its resources in the most effective ways, we must continue to instill a culture of continuous evaluation relative to our mission and goals.

Assessment is a responsibility that is shared across all areas and levels of the institution. Leadership and guidance is provided by a number of entities, including the Provost's Office, the Academic Assessment Committee, President's Staff, and the Director of Institutional Effectiveness, Research & Assessment.  If you have questions about assessment, please feel free to contact Robin Huntington Shores, our Director of Institutional Effectiveness, Research & Assessment. Robin is assigned 1/3 time to the Provost's Office to help in guiding the faculty in our efforts to assess student learning, and also works with President's Staff members regarding assessment in other areas.



End of Year Academic Assessment Reports (academic departments and programs) are due to the Provost in mid-June annually.  Feedback is provided in September.

End of Year Assessment of Institutional Effectiveness (IE) Reports (administrative units).  Full reports are due from all units in June-September each year.  (Check with your division head for exact date.)


Of Interest...

Multiple-Choice Testing in Education: Are the Best Practices for Assessment Also Good for Learning?

This article in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition by Washington University in St. Louis professor Andrew Butler offers insights.


A Chronicle article provides lots of advice on creating a syllabus, including the importance of providing 

Course goals. What will your students be able to do as a result of this course that they could not do, or do as well, before? What purpose does this course and its material serve? Are there discipline-specific objectives, larger metacognitive goals, or both?

The article is written by Kevin Gannon, a professor of history at Grand View University and director of its Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.  Swarthmore users can access the Chronicle through Tri College Libraries.

Effective Assessment with Existing Work

The Association of American Colleges and Universities has released On Solid Ground, which reports on a study that demonstrates that "it is possible to evaluate undergraduate students’ achievement without relying on standardized tests and by using existing material."

Drexel University
generously makes available the materials from its completed annual assessment conferences online.

See the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) article Faculty Energize University-Wide Assessment at St. Cloud State...

Course Evaluations

Chronicle article describes USC's modifications to course evaluations to make them more useful. Swarthmore users can access the Chronicle through Tri College Libraries.

Still confused about our requirements for course evaluations?  They remain the same as instituted by our original 2006 Assessment Plan.   Here is the guidance that Provost Thomas Stephenson sent to department chairs in October 2015.  (Also see "Academic Areas - Course Evaluations.")