Meaningful Assessment

Posted on: December 13th, 2013 by Shannon Milligan

In the past, some of my personal goals read like generic New Year’s resolutions: eat better, exercise more, call home more.  I started off with the best intentions and, by March, had all but given up.  That 5K I wanted to run?  Not happening unless I was being chased for a very, very long time.

This past summer I attended the Inner-Mission Staff Retreat coordinated by Mission and Identity.  In the process of reflecting on my personal goals and mission, I grew more aware that I was going to forever struggle with achieving these goals unless they were intentionally created and personally meaningful.  I thought about my goal to run a 5K.  It was intentionally created, both for health and as a challenge.  But it wasn’t personally meaningful until I realized I wanted to run for my best friend, an avid runner who was told she could no longer run after being diagnosed with cancer.  Since then, slowly but surely, I’ve been running and making progress.  It’s become my magis: being more, both for myself and for others.

I see this as a parallel to why we emphasize intentionality in creating goals and learning outcomes in assessment.  We often speak of the need for learning outcomes in particular to be written in measurable, student-focused terms.  What we speak of less often is the need for goals and learning outcomes to be meaningful-to your program, to your faculty/staff, and to your students.  For example, how do your goals and outcomes relate to the mission of your department and the university?  These are more than statements that reflect the skills, knowledge, and experiences students will have attained by the time they leave Loyola; they are also a way of saying, “this is what a Loyola education looks like.  This is how we prepare our students to contribute to the workforce and to society.”  When our goals and learning outcomes are meaningful, it is easier to be invested in assessing them.  In a sense, the last phase in the assessment cycle (reflecting on assessment results and how they will be used) becomes the program’s magis: a way of being more, both for the program and for the students.

I leave you with a challenge to reflect on the meaningfulness of your goals, learning outcomes, and overall assessment processes.  I also leave you with an invitation to attend a panel on “Why Assessment? Loyola’s Commitment to Student Assessment Practices” at Focus on Teaching and Learning on January 9, 2014.  The panel features Provost John Pelissero, Associate Provost Marian Claffey, and FCIP Director Carol Scheidenhelm.  For more information and to register for FOTL, please go to

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