We’ve all heard about the importance of strategic planning: charting an intentional course forward based on a careful consideration of our missions, contexts, priorities, limits, and possibilities. Far less attention is given to strategic assessment—where we ask how well we are doing something, how we could do it better, or whether we should be doing the thing at all.
Evaluation and assessment are central to the work of teaching and learning; they also play key roles in the ATS Commission’s Standards of Accreditation. Evaluation is a mission-critical process that calls for alignment of resources and activities toward desired outcomes and, as such, should be integrated into the work of the entire institution—from senior administrators to faculty to student information professionals. Through workshops at various ATS events, Engage ATS (an online interactive community for those who serve at ATS member schools), and other resources, ATS supports administrators and faculty involved in processes of evaluation and assessment. These resources include:
A Reflective Guide to Effective Assessment of Student Learning. Originally published as Chapter Seven of the Commission’s previous Self-Study Handbook, this text provides a concise, user-friendly, practical, and accessible framework to help institutions imagine, implement, and improve their own assessment programs. It also serves member schools by clearly linking the project of assessment to the expectations of the ATS Commission Standards. [NOTE: This document will be replaced in mid-2021 by a new Reflective Guide to Effective Evaluation for Theological Schools.]
An Assessment Workbook for Roman Catholic Seminaries. This text explores educational assessment with attention to both the ATS Commission Standards and also the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Program of Priestly Formation (PPF) and Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Program for Priestly Formation (CPPF). This text is accompanied by a selection of assessment case studies. Because the workbook and case studies focus on student formation broadly (including human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral elements), it can be useful to a wide range of institutions, including Catholic schools that offer programs other than priestly formation as well as non-Catholic institutions as they try to imagine new ways to assess spiritual formation or personal character.
ATS Commission on Accrediting Self-Study Handbook. While this handbook is designed specifically for schools undertaking a self-study process, it includes helpful information on evaluation more generally (see especially the section in Part I on “internal evaluation and planning”). Similarly, the Commission Standards include helpful information on evaluation (see especially the Standards of Accreditation with Self-Study Ideas, particularly Standard 2), and the Commission’s learning module on Understanding the Standards serves as a resource for those wanting to become familiar with the new Standards, as well as with the new Policies and Procedures, with tips also for those engaged in self-studies and in evaluation visits.
Educational Assessment: Simple, Sustainable, Sufficient. This 60-minute video is based on the workshop of the same name from the 2018 ATS Biennial Meeting, and is designed to help institutions evaluate and revise their educational assessment plans. While the presentation addresses the old (pre-2020) Standards of Accreditation, the principles discussed in this presentation are still relevant both for evaluation of student learning and for institutional evaluation more broadly. The presentation slides are also available.
Recommended Assessment Resources. This bibliography of resources, curated by ATS staff, provides suggestions for further reading.