External Reporting Agencies and Requirements
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
As the institution’s accreditor, SACSCOC requires that institutions teach and assess the general education curriculum . In Principle 9, SACSCOC states, “General education is an integral component of an undergraduate degree program through which students encounter the basic content and methodology of the principal areas of knowledge.”
Principle 9.3 Defines the minimum components of the general education program: “The institution requires the successful completion of a general education component at the undergraduate level that:
(a) is based on a coherent rationale.
(b) is a substantial component of each undergraduate degree program. For degree completion … in baccalaureate programs, a minimum of 30 semester hours or the equivalent.
(c) ensures breadth of knowledge. These credit hours include at least one course from each of the following areas: humanities/ fine arts, social/behavioral sciences, and natural science/ mathematics. These courses do not narrowly focus on those skills, techniques, and procedures specific to a particular occupation or profession.”
Assessment for continuous improvement of general education is also required. “The institution identifies expected outcomes, assesses the extent to which it achieves these outcomes, and provides evidence of seeking improvement based on analysis of the results for student learning outcomes for collegiate-level general education competencies of its undergraduate degree programs.” (Principle 8.2.b). This principle requires the institution to define competencies for its general education program and identify measures used to determine student achievement of those competencies. SACSCOC instructs institutions of higher education to use assessment results to guide decision-making about programs and services, and to demonstrate evidence-based improvement.
State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV)
The Code of Virginia § 23.1-203 requires SCHEV to work with higher education institutions in the state to develop guidelines and strategies for assessment of student achievement, and to publicly report the results for use in state-level strategic planning. SCHEV has recently adopted an assessment policy that was implemented in in the 2017-18 academic year. The policy requires the assessment of six competencies:
- Critical thinking (SCHEV defined)
- Written communication (SCHEV defined)
- Quantitative reasoning (SCHEV defined)
- Civic engagement (SCHEV defined)
- Inquiry (Competency area to be selected by Mason in accordance with institutional priorities for student learning and development)
- Oral Communication (Competency area selected by Mason in accordance with institutional priorities for student learning and development)
The policy requires the development and application of at least one learning outcome per area, to be assessed using direct measures (i.e. the review of student work or performance). In this regard, the policy states:
Assessment of the six competencies may be done at the level of general education, disciplinary and interdisciplinary majors, curricular and co-curricular programs, or a combination of these, depending on the needs and priorities of the institution and the particular outcome being assessed. Assessment strategies may include methods that generate quantitative data, qualitative data, or both. Indirect methods (such as surveys and student self-reports of achievement) and logical inferences may be used as a complement to the direct assessments described above (page 6).
The policy provides a reporting template that outlines required achievement data to be disaggregated by student “characteristics used to define underrepresented populations” (page 6).
To access the full assessment policy, download SCHEV Policy 2020