Triennial Assessment

Greetings all! My name is Jason Lyons and as the Director of Assessment at Christopher Newport University I often consider what makes the assessment process at Christopher Newport different. The most immediate answer lies with the assessment process itself. At CNU, we use a triennial assessment schedule.

Prior to the 2014, CNU conducted annual academic assessments. The results of our annual assessment efforts were not always useful and there was simply never enough time.

To allow for more time, CNU shifted its focus from annual assessment to triennial assessment.  Now, a single assessment cycle spans three years. During a cycle, academic programs are asked to:

  • Capture assessment data during the fall and spring terms across Years 1 and 2
    • Not during Year 3
  • During the fall of Year 3, faculty are asked to direct their time and energy toward:
    • Discussion of their findings,
    • Determining plans of action, and
    • Generating their triennial assessment report
      • Submitted to the Office of Assessment by December 15th
    • During the spring of Year 3, faculty are asked to work towards implementing changes
      • Implementation Memo submitted to the Office of Assessment by May 15th
        • This articulates the changes implemented
        • As opposed to what was simply “planned” in submitted report

Hot Tip: Triennial assessment reports are submitted mid-way through Year 3 rather than at the end of the assessment cycle allowing faculty to spend the final spring term implementing the informed changes prior to the next cycle’s start. The submission of the implementation memo marks the end of the triennial assessment cycle.

Lessons Learned: Our shift from annual to triennial assessment provided us with many lessons.  One is that it’s not all about data! Elaborate assessment plans designed to give us oodles of data does not automatically lead to informed change. We do not have to continuously collect data to inform practice and improve decision making. Remember that we have to periodically step back and reflect on the data we have in order to understand what it actually means. Then we need to have time to act, so don’t be afraid to schedule deliberate breaks from data capture into your assessment processes. Faculty need time to meet and discuss findings, reflect on their implications, and cultivate meaningful action plans that will enhance student learning in their programs.

Christopher Newport’s Assessment Process is described in more detail in Triennial Assessment as an Alternative to Annual Assessment, an Assessment in Practice piece found on NILOA’s website.


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