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OFFice of institutional assessment


The purpose of assessment at Norfolk State University is to provide information for planning and decision-making and the improvement of academic programs, educational support and administrative support services. The University codified its responsibilities to assess student learning outcomes in Administrative Policy #39-01, Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment.

Institutional Assessment Overview

The Office of Institutional Assessment is responsible for coordinating assessment activities in the following areas:

General Education Assessment

The Office of Assessment collaborates with the General Education Council to ensure that the general education program is addressing the expected competency skills required of every undergraduate students. The NSU general education curriculum is designed not only to ensure that students gain a foundation of knowledge rooted in the traditional liberal arts education but also acquire applied skills critical to such knowledge.

The core competency skills currently addressed in the general education program are six in number, namely:

  1. Written Communication
  2. Oral Communication
  3. Critical Thinking
  4. Quantitative Reasoning
  5. Reading
  6. Civic Engagement

The general education assessment at NSU is consistent with the SCHEV Policy on Student Learning Assessment and Quality in Undergraduate Education (2017).

The assessment of general education at NSU conforms to the requirements stated in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement (2018), section 8.2 (b) as related to student outcomes in general education. 

Program and Unit Assessment

The Office of Academic Effectiveness (OAE) (i.e., Accreditation, Assessment, and Testing) is responsible for monitoring, educating, training, and coordinating the University's on-going planning and assessment to ensure compliance with federal, state, and institutional accrediting bodies. The OAE collaborates with the University Assessment Advisory Committee (UAAC) to maintain a campus culture of assessment that fosters university-wide participation with monitoring and implementing policies, best practices, and improvements from assessment results.

The UAAC is a standing university committee established to advise and guide Norfolk State University in its evaluation of institutional effectiveness.  The University Assessment Advisory Committee provides a channel for open communication, support and liaison among NSU academic programs, educational support services, and administrative units. In addition to overseeing and monitoring the University's assessment processes, the responsibilities of the committee are outlined in Administrative Policy #39-02, University Assessment Advisory Committee.

At Norfolk State University, assessment of academic programs is the responsibility of the program's faculty; thus, outcomes assessment in academic programs is an intentional, iterative, faculty-driven process of inquiry that includes:

  • Identification of the program's mission, goals, and corresponding student learning outcomes;
  • Development and/or selection of assessment measures and methods;
  • Systematic collection and analysis of data that focuses on the extent to which students have achieved the program's learning outcomes, and
  • Implementation of improvement efforts arising from the data collected.

The University has adopted an annual planning and assessment process to ensure that each program or unit develops and assesses expected student learning outcomes.  For all academic programs, academic support, and administrative services, the Watermark/Accountability Management System (AMS) software is the University's internal assessment repository. The Watermark/AMS software is password protected and can be assessed through:    Watermark/ Taskstream Log-In

Academic programs and administrative units enter annual assessment plans in TaskStream by Watermark in each fall semester and complete a report summarizing and analyzing assessment findings and plans for improvement in the spring semester.  Watermark trainings are provided every semester to faculty and staff as may be needed.

The assessment staff offer professional development to faculty and staff designated as assessment facilitators on the development of outcomes, measures, and analysis of results. The UAAC members, under the management of assessment staff, review assessment plans and reports using the Annual Outcomes Assessment Report Rubric.

The assessment of academic programs, academic support services and administrative services at NSU conforms to the requirements stated in the SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement (2018), section 8.2(a) as related to student outcomes in educational programs and 8.2(c) as related to student outcomes in academic support and student services. 

Quality Enhancement Plan

The Office of Institutional Assessment is responsible for assessing the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), which is an integral component of the reaffirmation of accreditation process. In reflecting and affirming the commitment to enhance overall institutional quality and effectiveness, NSU’s QEP focuses on an important issue to the institution, which is to improve student learning and success in close reading and effective writing.

Two of the six general education competency skills are related to the QEP, including Reading and Written Communication.

For more information about the QEP, see Quality Enhancement Plan page. 

Student Achievement

The Office of Academic Effectiveness is focused on measuring student learning and success of NSU students to design and improve their educational experiences. For more information on NSU student achievement as required by SACSCOC in the Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement (2018), section 8.1, see Student Achievement.

Survey Administration

The Office of Institutional Assessment conducts and coordinates survey administration, data collection, analysis, and facilitates the dissemination of results to inform decision making and continuous quality improvement of programs and services. The indirect survey approach enables the University to assess student progress through the institution, student satisfaction with the University experience, the quality and efficacy of units and services, as well as the institutional environment and climate. University-wide assessment activities are the joint responsibilities of several offices, depending on what is being assessed.

The Office of Institutional Assessment administers the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE), and Graduating Senior Exit Survey on an annual basis.  The Office of Assessment also conducts survey for different units upon request.

Academic Program Review

The need for academic program review is based on multiple criteria to ensure each program’s centrality, currency, relevancy and effectiveness in supporting institutional mission, goals and accountability processes.  Academic program review is helpful in supporting decisions involving program effectiveness and resource allocation.

A periodic evaluation of academic programs enables a self-study of how each program is performing in terms of demand by students (enrollment trends), student success (retention, progression, and graduation), resource needs (human and materials), centrality to institutional mission, and overall trends in response to social, political, economic, demographic, and environmental changes (such as technological innovation).

In its Principles of Accreditation (2018), the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) states in section 7 (Institutional Planning and Effectiveness) that:

“Effective institutions demonstrate a commitment to principles of continuous improvement, based on a systematic and documented process of assessing institutional performance with respect to mission in all aspects of the institution.  An institutional planning and effectiveness process involves all programs, services, and constituencies; is linked to the decision-making process at all levels; and provides a sound basis for budgetary decisions and resource allocations.”

Thus, section 7 (1) of the Principles of Accreditation requires that institution engages in ongoing, comprehensive, and integrated research-based planning and evaluation processes that (a) focus on institutional quality and effectiveness and (b) incorporate a systematic review of institutional goals and outcomes consistent with its mission.

NSU embarks on a periodic review of all its academic programs.  All undergraduate programs are reviewed on a five-year cycle and graduate programs are reviewed on a seven-year cycle. The current cycles for both undergraduate and graduate programs begin in fall 2021 semester (Academic Program Review for AY 2022-2028).

The review process takes two semesters to complete, beginning in fall and ending in spring. The template for completing the self-study with instructions is provided here (Academic Program Review Template).

In the academic year when a program is due for review, pertinent data needed for the self-study will be provided from the Office of Institutional Research through the Provost’s Office.

Programs with no disciplinary/specialized accreditation will submit their final self-study report to an appointed external reviewer for feedback through the Provost’s Office. Programs with disciplinary accreditations will use their accreditation report in lieu of the self-study report. The Provost will provide the final recommendation on each program review.