Assessment FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve compiled a list of FAQs about Mason Core assessment. Please refer to this list for questions you might have about assessment, and refer to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness for more about our assessment efforts.

What is assessment?
Assessment is “the process of collecting and analyzing information to determine if progress is being made toward a desired end” (AALHE, 2020). In the context of higher education, our focus is on learning outcomes assessment, which is an ongoing and reflective process. For the Mason Core curriculum, we assess student learning outcomes for each area, which span across courses and disciplines. The overall goal is to better understand how students are performing so that we can identify ways to better support their learning.  
Why should we assess?
Assessment offers important information about student learning and experiences, which can be used to inform meaningful dialogue and decisions about how George Mason can further support student success and institutional effectiveness. The process can help faculty to reflect upon their teaching practices and make informed decisions about their curriculum and coursework. Engaging in the assessment process, as well as using the findings for improvement, are required for George Mason’s regional accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); specialized accrediting agencies such as ABET and AASCB; and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) to meet external reporting requirements.
When do we assess?
Assessment is an ongoing process, and each Mason Core area is assessed over a four-year cycle. Visit the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Planning for more information and details about the assessment cycle.
Who is required to participate?
ALL FACULTY who are teaching a course that is required for a given Mason Core category are expected to submit course materials for assessment when requested. This includes tenure-line, term, part-time or adjunct faculty, and graduate students who are instructors of record. It is important that all faculty who teach our students are represented in assessment findings.
Is this an evaluation of my teaching?
Absolutely not. The learning outcomes assessment process is not about evaluating individual instructors or their teaching. Course materials are reviewed using a common rubric, and findings are reported in aggregate across the Mason Core categories. For example, there may be 400 documents across the area of Quantitative Reasoning across 100 sections of courses within the category). Individual course-level data is kept confidential and will not be shared or reported in that way. However, if you would like to discuss your individual course assessment findings, please reach out to Laura Poms (Mason Core Director) to request an individual consultation.
What happens if I choose not to participate?
All faculty who are teaching a Mason Core course are expected to submit course materials at the end of the scheduled semester. Course materials may include the syllabus, assignment prompts, a random sample of student work (up to 10), and/or ratings of students’ performance on the learning outcomes for the Mason Core category. The requested materials are produced in the course, and the submission process requires minimal additional work from the instructor. Participation in assessment is essential for a course to remain in Mason Core.
Do I need to get students' permission to use their work for this assessment?
It is not necessary to get student permission to use their work for the purpose of academic assessment. The catalog contains a statement in the Student Rights and Responsibilities section about the use of student work for academic assessment. We do not recommend telling individual students that their work has been selected for assessment. George Mason does not provide individual assessment results to students, and this type of assessment makes no impact on grades or degree progress. All student work is treated with respect and confidentiality during the assessment process.
Should I share the work samples with my grading comments, or provide clean copies?
We prefer that you not share your grading comments, just the student work. The idea is that the work will be reviewed on a rubric that is looking for specific learning outcomes, and the reviewer will not necessarily be looking for the same things that you are when you grade the paper. Typically, the assessment has a much narrower focus, such as evidence of critical thinking (rather than everything that you look for to assign a grade).
What should I do about submitting course materials that are on paper?
Please submit digital copies of course materials for assessment, following the instructions that are provided during the Mason Core assessment information sessions (for more information, please visit the OIEP webpage for Mason Core Assessment). If you only accept paper submissions, please scan them and turn them into PDFs.

What ways are faculty involved in the assessment process?
Faculty members who have experience teaching in Mason Core are involved in all stages of the assessment process, including planning activities, reviewing assessment materials, and improving processes. For example, they may serve on the Mason Core Assessment Council to support best practices in assessment, review and rate de-identified course materials, or participate in a task group to refine special projects in assessment. If you are interested in more information about how to support Mason Core assessment processes, please contact Gina Polychronopoulos in OIEP.