Excellence in Assessment

Excellence in Assessment: An Evolving Conversation

2022 has been a year of profound reflection across higher education; within the field of assessment, years of pre-Pandemic conversations have converged and assessment scholars and practitioners are asking big, important questions of ourselves as well as our campus colleagues. Does what we do impact student learning and, ultimately, student success? When we attempt to connect the dots between and across courses, co-curricular experiences and programs do we find cohesive, complementary experiences? How effectively do our assessment paradigms connect to multiple disciplines, epistemologies, and pedagogical approaches? Answers to these questions can and should drive our conception of excellence in assessment.

To that end, AAC&U—in partnership with others—is leaning into giving space and voice to these questions, whether at our Annual Meeting or other nationally renowned assessment forums. These conversations can and should ultimately influence what is recognized within the Excellence in Assessment Designation (EIA). The first national initiative of its kind, recognizes institutions that successfully integrate assessment practices throughout the institution, provide evidence of student learning outcomes, and use assessment results to guide institutional decision-making and improve student performance. The EIA designation’s focus is on processes and uses of assessment data, rather than on student performance or accomplishment.

As we described in the NILOA Reflections column of the January/February 2022 issue of Assessment Update announcing AAC&U’s stewardship of the Excellence in Assessment designation, we planned to use 2022 to reflect upon the extraordinary history of the Designation, and its critical role making space for recognizing and honoring the work of assessment at a diverse range on institutions. We have concluded our internal review of the Designation, its purpose, tenets, and parameters, leading up to our critical next step—community engagement in defining, articulating, and ultimately recognizing excellence in assessment moving forward.

At AAC&U, we believe now is the right moment for further reflection, review, and possible enhancement of the EIA designation. As we work to ensure the long-term viability and relevance of the EIA designation, there are questions we will continue to ask of ourselves and of the designation… addressing the dynamic tension between articulated and enacted assessment practices, along with the demonstrated results of these processes. These questions and more will assist in our evaluation of the EIA process and help decide the path forward.
/ From NILOA Perspectives: What’s Next for the Excellence in Assessment Designation, by Gianina Baker and Kate Drezek McConnell

The Excellence in Assessment Designation: Next Steps

Over the coming weeks and months, AAC&U, with support from several AAC&U fellows and scholars within the Office of Curricular and Pedagogical Innovation, will engage the broader community in the conversation in multiple ways:

  • November 1, 2022: “Defining Excellence in Assessment” Survey opens
  • December 15, 2022: “Defining Excellence in Assessment” Survey closes
  • January – February 2023: “Defining Excellence in Assessment” Structured Group Interviews conducted
  • February 9-11, 2023: “Defining Excellence in Assessment” Feedback session at the in-person component of the 2023 Conference on General Education, Pedagogy, and Assessment
  • March 1, 2023: “Defining Excellence in Assessment” Feedback session at the virtual component on Assessment for the 2023 Conference on General Education, Pedagogy, and Assessment
  • August 31, 2023: Release of the results of the review, next steps for the Excellence in Assessment designation

AAC&U welcomes input to this process from all members of the broader the assessment community, including but not limited to assessment and institutional effectiveness professionals, institutional researchers, higher education scholars, faculty, academic and institutional leadership, and thought leaders representing higher education associations and other organizations. Information about the process and invitations to participate will be distributed broadly.

2021 Excellence in Assessment Designees

  • Cameron University

    Cameron University is designated as Sustained Excellence in assessment through the commitment to continuing to improve on an already solid and mature system of assessment. Cameron University is doing an admirable job of involving and developing additional opportunities to incorporate external stakeholders in meaningful ways. Internally, the level of engagement and communication between the Institutional Assessment Committee and programs/units is impressive and a clear strength of Cameron’s assessment process. Additionally, the attention to rewarding faculty for participation in assessment activities formally through promotion and tenure, annual review, and service obligations assists in centering assessment work at Cameron.

    Capella University

    Capella University maintains the Sustained Excellence designation and is
    indeed an exemplar for transparency of outcomes coupled with quality
    teaching and learning processes. Capella’s websites continue to serve as an excellent tool for students, faculty members, and employers by
    communicating and tailoring evidence of student learning to various
    audiences. The assessment plan at the institution-level includes a logic
    model of how learning and change happens over time, meaning there is an
    institutional approach to learning management driven by learning and
    buttressed by accreditation standards. Capella has managed to build
    assessment processes that have become natural and sustained through
    leadership and organizational changes.

    Community College of Baltimore County

    The Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) maintains the Sustained Excellence designation by continuing to practice excellence in
    assessment. From communication with partner institutions to varied
    stakeholder engagement across the college to the wide variety of
    committee work, various pieces connect assessment into a scalable
    meaningful process of engagement with student learning at CCBC.
    Additionally, the faculty-initiated, team-based assessment projects as
    well as recognition of assessment activities in the evaluation and
    promotion process for faculty are to be elevated. Given the level of
    maturity and sophisticated assessment infrastructure of CCBC, its
    institutionally tailored processes for assessment planning and evidence
    still allow flexibility for those engaged in the process to revise
    efforts to meet changing student needs.


    IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) maintains the
    Sustained Excellence designation with a strong narrative reflective of
    the journey to an integrative assessment culture. IUPUI continues to
    expand its understanding and knowledge of ongoing assessment, leaning
    into its strength of providing abundant opportunities for professional
    development both internally and externally, including making significant
    contributions to the field through the Assessment Institute in
    Indianapolis, the oldest and largest U.S. higher education event focused
    on assessment and improvement. There is high engagement of alumni,
    employers, advisory boards, and students in various and connected
    processes of assessment. The leadership, intentionality, and balanced
    approach to assessment across the institution at-large is of the guiding
    ship, or lighthouse quality. IUPUI’s assessment process offers
    institutions of any size a model to consider, emulate, or replicate to a
    scale reasonable for their institution and its mission.

    Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

    Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology maintains the Sustained Excellence
    designation with an impressive systematic and longstanding process of
    assessment. Rose-Hulman’s view of accomplishment of institutional-level
    assessment, shareable with internal and external stakeholders, is well
    situated with a large number of artifacts (over 2,000!) evaluated
    annually, along with strong stakeholder participation. Accessibility of
    up-to-date, real-time data in dashboards as well as regular discussions
    of assessment data within committee work allows for those at Rose-Hulman
    to know what data are available, where to find it, and how to use it.

  • California State University-East Bay

    California State University East Bay’s (CSUEB) narrative highlights
    quality assessment practices at work. CSUEB’s interconnected and dynamic
    processes collectively operate at the course, program, and
    institutional levels to advance improvements in students’ learning
    experiences. CSUEB’s collaborative approach to assessment is
    commendable. CSUEB has a remarkable repository of information on their
    website and the integration of assessment activities makes for an
    efficient process and maximum use of student work and data for
    meaningful institutional self-reflection and improvement.

    Whatcom Community College

    Whatcom Community College has put significant time and effort into
    making assessment a sustainable, integrated, and useful part of their
    institutional practices. Additionally, Whatcom has worked hard to
    develop an organized and sustained effort at involving faculty and
    staff, including adjunct faculty, in assessment planning and
    implementation processes. Whatcom’s assessment and institutional
    research website is rich with evidence of assessment changes which is
    monitored and communicated publicly to stakeholders across the
    institution. Whatcom Community College’s transparent and honest
    evaluation of their practices is refreshing.

Interested in Learning More?

Want to learn more about the evolving conversation on excellence in assessment? Contact Micah Price at [email protected].