Skip to main content

Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness

Assessment and Strategic Program Review

Continuous Reflection and Evaluation: A Commitment to Excellence

Academic and administrative units at Western Carolina University are committed to regular review of their units to ensure excellence in student learning, educational practices, and operational outcomes. This involves both internal and external reviews of outcomes assessment and unit quality and productivity. At WCU, these reviews are done via three primary processes: Annual Assessment and Periodic Unit Review for both academic and administrative units and Program Prioritization for academic units.

Annual Outcomes Assessment and Periodic Unit Review are formative in nature (i.e., they are intended to help the unit improve without threat of repercussion). These two processes work together to ensure yearly student learning and/or operational outcomes review with a periodic look at the unit as a whole. 

Shared Values and Priorities

Our goals and objectives reflect the University's Strategic Vision. Action plans and action plan evaluations are developed annually as a part of the strategic planning process.


Assessment: the collection, interpretation, and synthesis of information to guide decision making.

The aim of assessment at WCU is to involve faculty in the evaluation of academic programs in order to:

  • Provide evidence of program quality
  • Permit documentation of changes in program quality
  • Establish a longitudinal data base documenting consistently high academic standards
  • Show evidence of student learning.

The WCU assessment program is designed to measure student skills, knowledge, and accomplishments specified in our strategic vision. Assessment is an on-going process designed and implemented by the faculty in keeping with the role and mission statements of the university, and the school and departments in which the programs are located.

Defining goals for each program area is the most important step in establishing an assessment program. For each academic major, goals are defined, students’ progress toward these goals is monitored, and results are used to continue, modify, or reinforce aspects of the program to ensure continuous advancement in program quality.

No single approach to assessment is universally accepted. Therefore, different methods of assessment are appropriate for different programs. The faculty for each program is responsible for determining the methods and appropriateness of the assessment measures used. 

Continuous Improvement

  • Goals are defined.
  • Progress is monitored.
  • Results are gathered.
  • Programs are modified or reinforced. 
  • Program quality is advanced.

ACCESS CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT RESOURCE SITE ON SHAREPOINT (LOGIN REQUIRED). Link may not work with certain versions of Internet Explorer/IE

Assessing strategic plans, identifying specific outcome objectives, measuring progress and implementing improvements based on findings.

The primary purpose of periodic unit review is to advance the quality of core teaching and learning, research, professional/creative activity, and public service/academic outreach functions through a periodic system of review. The unit's ongoing assessment and strategic planning activities will be critical to the review process. A unit's accreditation may be done in place of the unit review process upon the approval of the Provost. This review is intended to be a formative, non-punitive review of the current standing of the unit.

All support units within the university engage in ongoing outcomes assessment. All units maintain mission and goal statements that reflect the strategic vision of the university and action plans and action plan evaluations are developed annually as a part of the strategic planning process.  Units also identify specific outcome objectives, measure progress toward these objectives, and implement improvements based on findings.

It is the intent of the unit review process that members of each administrative unit will have the opportunity to articulate their goals and to explain how the unit’s current activities support their aspirations.

Academic support units and units within Student Affairs include student learning outcomes among their objectives. Support units submit their action plans and evaluations, and assessment plans and reports to their division on an annual basis. Support units are also subject to administrative unit reviews every seven years. 

Administrative unit review is an external review intended to advance the quality of the services provided by the unit. To that end, each unit assesses its mission, operations, and resources relative to the same core effectiveness standards understanding that these standards have varying degrees of relevance and applicability across units.

Promoting excellence in student learning, educational practices and quality of service by establishing and maintaining a campus culture of self-evaluation and improvement.

SLO graphic


We provide leadership and support to the campus community in efforts to demonstrate that the University is fulfilling its institutional mission and to enhance Western Carolina University as a community of scholarship.

This process is intended to be a formative, non-punitive process of improvement.


View current Student Learning Outcomes

Outcomes Assessment and External Unit Review align naturally with SACSCOC Standards 7: Institutional Planning and Effectiveness and  8.2: Student Achievement:

7. Effective institutions demonstrate a commitment to the principles of continuous improvement.  These principles are based on a systematic and documented process of assessing institutional performance with respect to mission in all aspects of the institution.  An institutional planning and effectiveness process involves all programs, services and constituencies; is linked to the decision-making process at all levels; and provides a sound basis for budgetary decisions and resource allocations.

3. The institution identifies expected outcomes of its administrative support services and demonstrates the extent to which the outcomes are achieved. (Administrative effectiveness)

8.2. 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 in the areas below:

a. student learning outcomes for each of its educational programs. (Student outcomes: educational programs)

b. student learning outcomes for collegiate-level general education competencies of its undergraduate degree programs. (Student outcomes: general education)

c. academic and student services that support student success. (Student outcomes: academic and student services)

These processes are supported by the Director of Assessment in the Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness and the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies.

Office of Web Services