University’s Assessment Initiative Praised

Issue Date: 
February 9, 2015

A new case study hails the University of Pittsburgh’s “culture of assessment,” which has led to advancements in the support and instruction of students on all five campuses.  

The study titled “Making Assessment Work: Lessons from the University of Pittsburgh” was published online Jan. 29 by Ithaka S+R, a research service for academic institutions. Author Martin Kurzweil visited the Pittsburgh campus in October and “found evidence of a widespread and sincere commitment to the assessment of student learning, and to using the assessment information to improve program structure, student support, curriculum, and instruction.” 

Pitt launched its University-wide assessment initiative in 2006. All 350 degree and certificate programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels are required to establish three to five learning outcomes that must be evaluated every three to five years. General education and student support programs are also participating in the assessment process. Since implementation, more than 310 programmatic changes—such as updates to course curricula—have been made as a result of assessment findings. 

One of the most important takeaways of the case study is that Pitt faculty members are more actively engaged in the assessment process than at other institutions. The faculty have made “assessment an important driver of program improvement,” the report states.   

“The case study affirms the commitment of the University and its faculty to advancing academic excellence and enhancing the student experience on campus,” said Juan Manfredi, vice provost for undergraduate studies. “We are confident that the assessment processes outlined in the case study will contribute to strengthening the University’s position as a leader in higher education for years to come.”

The Pitt case study is the first in a new series that Ithaka S+R is publishing about innovative approaches institutions are using to improve student outcomes. It was published in advance of Pitt’s Assessment Conference on Jan. 30, which addressed best practices for measuring teaching effectiveness. The annual conference for the Pitt community is one of the many resources that the University provides to enable schools, departments, and centers to conduct effective assessments. Visit to learn more.