A Small College's Adventure with Accreditation and Assessment

Randy R. Grant
    In 1998, Linfield College went through its 10-year accreditation review. The dominant theme of this accreditation cycle was assessment. How do we measure how well our programs are delivering what students need? In developing measures of assessment for the economics curriculum, the economists created standardized exams in an attempt to quantify student performance and instructional achievement. As gloriously quantitative as these measures were, the accreditation review team was not impressed. They wanted a more comprehensive, better focused assessment plan. This forced us to think more carefully about what we wanted to accomplish and how we would go about measuring performance. We opted to structure our curricular assessment around five important proficiencies. These proficiencies are adapted from Hansen, W.L., “What Knowledge is Most Worth Knowing for Economics Majors?” American Economic Review, May 1986. We then designed new and adapted current assessment tools to measure our performance. Whereas our first assessment plan was too sparse, and hence rejected, our second attempt was too ambitious. It was acceptable to the accreditation team, but a burden on faculty. We finally settled on a plan that is both satisfactory to the accrediting team and informative to us, without creating excessive work and storage problems. We have found the process helpful in identifying what we really want economics majors to learn and how we can improve our pedagogy. The purpose of this paper is to share what we have developed in the hopes that it will help other strengthen their curricula and assessment procedures.