Some quotes from an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
I like it because it encourages faculty members to think more carefully about what they do, how they do it, and why they do it that way. I like it because it helps raise questions about how our teaching strategies affect learning outcomes. And I like it because in the process, we discover more about how our teaching fits in with programs and curricula beyond our own courses. Good-quality assessment simply asks about our goals, our instructional procedures, and the link between both of those and learning.And now, for the rest of the story...
Assessment can help. It can teach faculty members to work together to teach and assess those learning goals. For example, many sociology programs stress the role of research methods across courses, but my interviews with students suggest that students generally fail to apply their knowledge of those methods in other courses. In part that happens because instructors do not reinforce such knowledge and skills. Assessing both the courses and students' knowledge will highlight such gaps and help transform their cumulative experience by encouraging instructors to improve both individual courses and the learning gained across courses.
The entire department would benefit as all courses became part of a well-thought-out whole. Professors gain classes full of prepared students, and students report their highest levels of satisfaction and learning in departments where faculty members collectively assume responsibility for the entire curriculum and its assessment. It takes a village of engaged faculty to raise successful students. That same village can provide better assessment than can one designated person, and can make better use of the results.
Let's not do assessment just because it is mandated. Let's not do it to make accreditation agencies happy or because everyone else is doing it. Let's do it to improve learning.