Institutional Effectiveness (IE) is responsible for ensuring USF compliance with the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) assessment requirements. We are also responsible for the submission of official reports on these activities.

Institutional Effectiveness ensures compliance for the following types of assessment at USF:

1. Undergraduate and graduate academic programs

The focus of academic program assessment is on defining, measuring and improving student learning. Each academic program is required to design an assessment process that provides information that can be used to:

Determine whether students are learning what the program says they are;
• Identify strengths and weaknesses of the program in meeting defined learning outcomes;
Make changes based on assessment results to improve the program.
The implementation of meaningful assessment by academic programs will also satisfy the critical external agency requirements set by our regional accreditor, SACSCOC, and the Florida Board of Governors (BOG).

Requirement 8.2 of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) requires that all educational programs identify expected student learning outcomes, assesses the extent to which it achieves these outcomes, and provide evidence of seeking improvement based on the analysis of the results (2018 Principles of Accreditation).

It should be stressed that good assessment requires the involvement of faculty at all stages of the process to improve student learning. Information on creating and implementing an assessment plan for an academic program is available on the Assessment Resources page and on the ATLE page.

BOG Regulation 8.016 requires program faculty develop and publish an Academic Learning Compact (ALC) for each baccalaureate program. At a minimum, the ALC must contain:

Expected core student learning outcomes (SLOs) in the areas of:  content/discipline knowledge and skills, communication skills, and critical thinking skills; Appropriate methods for assessing student achievement of the expected core SLOs within the context of the program; Appropriate discussion of how the results of the assessment will be used to improve the academic program.

In developing the assessment process, it is expected that departments and degree programs look beyond simply "mastery" and instead toward "continuous improvement," a concept foundational to SACSCOC's rationale for assessment. The idea is not to "prove yourself" each year, but to study something (maybe not even the central things) that will help you improve student learning, relevance, operations, efficiencies, or other elements of your program. It's common for an assessment plan to contain a mixture of mastery goals ("85% of students in this major will graduate within four years") and continuous improvement goals ("student portfolios in the capstone course will display all of the NACE competencies toward career readiness"). The former example is a target you either hit or you don't, and if you don't, it's not very helpful in terms of what to do with those results. The latter example is a more holistic target, and when it is sensed that more could be done, it's somewhat clearer what to actually alter so as to improve results going forward.

Accordingly, each degree program must create a three-year plan in this manner:

Year One

  • Establish program specific SLOs based on the goals of the program.
  • Develop a curriculum map showing the courses in which learning outcomes are introduced, reinforced, mastered, and assessed.
  • Identify methods that will be used to assess SLOs and a plan for assessing them.
  • Collect, analyze, and use the collected assessment data to pilot test the feasibility of the assessment measures and processes described in the plan, and (if needed) revise the assessment plan.

Year Two

  • Collect additional data (or improved data if measures were changed based on the pilot test results from Year One)
  • Analyze the data, and produce a report that summarizes the assessment findings.The assessment report must include an action plan for using the assessment results to improve curriculum or instruction.

Year Three

  • Implement the action plan to improve curriculum or instruction that was developed during year two.
  • Assess the impact of the curricular or pedagogical changes that were made.
  • Begin developing the assessment plan for the next three-year cycle.


2. Academic and student support services units

Institutional Effectiveness facilitates the reporting of the academic and student support services assessments at the University of South Florida. The focus of this facilitation is to satisfy SACSCOC requirement 8.2.c by encouraging assessment activities that lead to continual improvement of existing programs and services:

Requirement 8.2.c: "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 of academic and student services that support student success" (p. 20). (Student outcomes: academic and student services)

Note: Academic and support services units provide direct support to faculty and students as related to their educational programs, indirect support for student learning, or a specific co-curricular mission that supports the college experience. Examples of these units include admissions, financial aid, academic records, the academic success center, the writing center, career services, computer labs, university police, student life/affairs units, ATLE, etc. Other units that are also included are athletics, diversity & inclusion, college deans offices, Innovative Education, USF World, and USF Libraries.

Information on creating and implementing an assessment plan for an academic and student support service unit is available on the Assessment Resources page.


3. Administrative support units

Institutional Effectiveness provides support for the assessment of all administrative support units at the University of South Florida. The focus of this assistance is to satisfy SACSCOC requirements by encouraging assessment activities that lead to the continuous improvement of existing services.

SACSCOC 7.3 - "The institution identifies expected outcomes of its administrative support services and demonstrates the extent to which the outcomes are achieved" (p. 19). (Administrative effectiveness)

This requirement is part of the SACSCOC Core Requirement for ongoing "Institutional Planning and Effectiveness." The purpose of this Core Requirement is to ensure that the institution has an appropriate broad-based approach to institution-wide effectiveness that supports its mission and serves as a framework for planning. This is followed by evaluation activities that allow the institution to discern whether it is making the progress it anticipated in its planning efforts, and making corrections as needed.

Administrative support service units generally serve the educational mission of the institution in a much more indirect way than do offices related to educational programs or academic support and student services. Examples of administrative support units include finance, facilities management, parking and transportation, administrative services, human resources, advancement, the president's office, etc.

Expected outcomes for administrative support services typically include outcomes such as efficiency and quality of service targets (e.g., energy usage, response times, error rates, "clean report" targets, satisfaction rates), monetary targets (e.g., fund-raising targets, research grant targets, auxiliary income targets), etc. Often, the goals are explicit parts of the budgeting process or components of the strategic plan.

At USF, it is expected that all administrative support service units have developed and implemented a process for setting goals and objectives, measuring the extent to which they are met, and making improvements to the unit's functioning based on the results of the measures.

NOTE: Effective with the 2018-19 fiscal year, administrative units that do not directly provide academic or student support services will no longer be required to report assessment activities in SAM. However, annual assessment reports must be archived at the unit level and available for inclusion in accreditation reports.


In response to the recent release of the revised Principles of Accreditation by SACSCOC, IE and the Academy for Teaching and Learning Excellence (ATLE) have formed a new partnership for the improvement of student learning outcomes (SLOs) assessment at USF. Beginning with the 2018 academic program assessment cycle, IE will target its review of program plans and reports on compliance with SACSCOC and BOG requirements. At the same time, ATLE will provide assistance to departments in improving the quality of their academic assessment activities. 

What is Assessment?

The systematic and methodologically sound examination/evaluation of educational services (i.e. student learning outcomes, missional goals/objectives) for the purpose of continuous program improvement.

Why Assess?

While the primary purpose of assessment is to improve student learning and the functioning of administrative offices, it is also required by both the BOG and our accrediting body, SACSCOC.

Section 8 of the Principles of Accreditation of SACSCOC addresses Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) assessment.

Requirement 8.2.a:
The institution identifies student learning outcomes for each of its academic programs, assesses the extent to which it achieves these outcomes, and provides evidence of improvement based on analysis of the results. (Institutional Effectiveness)

BOG Regulation 8.016 requires each SUS institution to develop a process that ensures that program faculty:

  1. Develop and publish an Academic Learning Compact (ALC) for each baccalaureate program. At a minimum, the ALC must contain a list of core student learning outcomes (SLOs) in the areas of content/discipline knowledge and skills, communication skills, and critical thinking skills - and examples of assessments students might encounter;
  2. Develop methods for assessing student achievement of the expected core SLOs within the context of the program;
  3. Use program evaluation systems (which may include sampling) to evaluate the program and related assessment practices to analyze their efficacy in determining whether program graduates have achieved the expected core SLOs; and
  4. Use the evaluation results to improve student learning and program effectiveness.

Academic Learning Compacts (ALC) for all undergraduate programs are available for current and prospective students.