Planning The Assessment

Focusing the assessment is vital to gathering useful information. It is important to reflect on what will be assessed, the purpose for assessment, who will be involved, and constraints that may influence the assessment.


Assessment can be approached in a variety of ways. Two common strategies include developing overarching assessment questions or establishing goals and objectives that describe what the program/project is striving to accomplish. Either approach will serve to focus the assessment process and determine the type of information collected, the strategy for gathering the information, and the appropriate analysis options. Taking the time to formulate the appropriate assessment questions or goals and objectives is crucial to providing useful results. Poorly constructed, inappropriate, or unrealistic questions and goals and objectives lead to irrelevant data that do not satisfactorily address the reasons for conducting the assessment.


Identification of the primary stakeholders and their key concerns is essential for the development of an appropriate assessment plan. Determining the audiences interested in the results of the assessment and how the information will be used by the various groups will guide all aspects of the assessment. For example, assessment results may be used by an administrator as a basis for financial decisions, while staff may use the information for implementing program/project changes. These differing needs must be reflected in the assessment questions and methodology in order to provide results that will be of interest to each of the stakeholders.

Possible stakeholders include:

  • Administrators
  • Outside funding sources
  • Program staff
  • Program participants (i.e., students)
  • Faculty
  • Parents
  • Alumni
  • Special interest groups
  • Community members/organizations


Possible constraints need to be considered when planning the assessment. Constructing an assessment in which the results cannot be reasonably addressed due to specific circumstances sets the process up for failure. For example, an assessment plan that require hours of interviews may not be feasible on a limited budget or if results need to be available within a relatively short period of time.

Possible constraints include:

  • Budget
  • Time
  • ‘Political’ situations
  • Availability of data sources


The rights of participants involved in an assessment must be respected and protected. It is imperative that participants are aware of the following:

  • The purpose of the assessment
  • The role of the participant in the assessment
  • How the information provided by the participant will be used/reported
  • Participation in the assessment is voluntary and the respondent may choose to withdraw at any time
  • Confidentiality will be maintained in the collection, storage, and reporting of the information shared by the participant

Certain types of assessment fit the University’s definition of “research” and must undergo review by the Institutional Review Board; informed consent to participate must be obtained from participants in these instances. Other assessment activities fall outside the scope of “research” and are exempt from obtaining informed consent. SU’s Office of Research Integrity and Protections (ORIP) reports the following policy to help understand the distinction between these two types of efforts:

Evaluations conducted exclusively for quality assurance, quality improvement, or accountability purposes are not research and do not require IRB review. In these evaluations, there is no intention to share knowledge and information with external audiences.

The ORIP website provides the complete policies and guidelines regarding ethics approval for human subjects.