Academic Program Approval and Review
One of our primary goals at Mason is to ensure our students are learning in a way that allows them to demonstrate their knowledge and capabilities when they complete their degrees. Assessing and reviewing our academic programs help us meet that objective.
The university demands that our programs meet the highest criteria and educational standards, and clearly defines our expectations, setting parameters to measure how well we're meeting them. Mason constantly seeks ways to strengthen our programs and deliver a better learning experience. One of the ways we do this is through an assessment process.
The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (IRA) works with department heads to support candid, reflective, systematic, and ongoing assessment practices. IRA relies on them to know of and communicate assessment initiatives and expectations to faculty members. Department heads, the primary source of information about their programs, provide guidance on:
- Student learning outcome assessment.
- Annual assessment planning and tracking.
- Academic program review (APR).
The university shares the results of these reviews with internal and external audiences, and that knowledge allows us to continually improve our programs, make smart decisions, and qualify for accreditation in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSOC).
All academic and administrative units participate in ongoing outcome assessment and reporting. Graduate and undergraduate degree programs, regardless of APR or external accreditation schedule, must:
- Identify student learning outcomes.
- Develop measures to assess learning.
- Conduct the assessment.
- Report results on an annual cycle.
The multi-year APR process requires units to identify the mission, goals, and learning outcomes of degree programs. They use a variety of data sources to measure whether departments are meeting goals and achieving the outcomes they seek. The results form the basis of an action plan to improve student learning.
Throughout the process, units are encouraged to routinely discuss the program's educational goals, learning outcomes, and curriculum map, which helps the department head prepare faculty for the program review.
Departments submit an APR report every seven years for review by peers, representatives from the Office of the Provost, and IRA.
The Mason Core, a collection of common courses that all undergraduates must take, makes up a significant part of our students' education. We assess our ability to convey this knowledge to find out how well students are learning, and measure the likelihood that they'll excel in advanced courses.
What we learn improves undergraduate teaching and learning, while also meeting requirements for learning outcomes assessment for SACSOC accreditation and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).
Mason conducts regular surveys on the student experience in majors, in schools and colleges, and at the university. Department heads contribute to the content of locally developed assessment surveys, encourage student participation, and study the results, which can affect program development and decisions.
Department heads support assessment efforts for university and college educational initiatives as applicable (for example, the Students as Scholars program, writing-intensive courses, etc.). They also work with IRA to create assessment plans and tools to meet specific needs and concerns.
For Comprehensive Reporting, Procedures and Best Practices
Consult the resources on the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment home page.