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Academic Assessment

Academic assessment is a continuous process designed for understanding, supporting and improving student learning. It is an outcomes-based approach, where key aspects of student learning and development are aligned through the institution, program and course levels.


Evidence of student learning is measured, analyzed and improved through a continuous process loop. Student learning outcomes are made explicit and public, with appropriate definitions of means of assessment and criteria for success. Assessment considers a wide range of relevant performance information: direct and indirect, standardized and non-standardized measures. Evidence is gathered, analyzed and interpreted to determine how well outcomes match expectations. Results are used to document, explain and improve learning outcomes, as well as identify budget and strategic plan implications.


Purpose and Goals

Purpose of Assessment:
SCNM is committed to the improvement of student learning. As such, assessment's overarching purpose is the enhancement of student learning through consistent, continuous and appropriate data collection and analysis. The data inform changes necessary to positively impact student learning through effective strategic, financial, and organizational planning. Through assessment, SCNM is well-positioned to meet its mission and graduate competent, confident naturopathic physicians.

Goals of Assessment:

  • To achieve SCNM’s mission
  • To enhance student learning in all areas 
  • To encourage effective communication about student learning 
  • To improve the curriculum and its delivery
  • To increase and apply knowledge of student assessment at both the program and course levels
  • To align with strategic, financial and organizational planning
  • To foster compliance with the requirements for accreditation, licensing and federal regulations

Academic Assessment Committee

Overseen by the director of academic assessment and program development and works in cooperation with the dean of student affairs.

Purpose: The Academic Assessment Committee (AAC) serves as a standing committee of SCNM with initial responsibility to develop a college-wide program for the assessment of student learning. Members of the committee collectively have responsibility for supporting assessment efforts at SCNM. The AAC is overseen by the director of academic assessment and works in cooperation with the dean of instruction to (1) plan, implement, and evaluate the assessment work of the college, and (2) keep historical records of any changes or actions made as a result of assessment. The AAC facilitates implementation of the assessment program, recommends approaches for building the capacity to conduct assessment, and regularly updates the assessment program to reflect new priorities. The AAC reports its work at Curriculum Committee, Faculty Senate, clinical faculty and academic faculty meetings via consent agenda items and periodic presentations. As is customary, the chair of the Curriculum Committee then reports to the Faculty Senate.

Charge: Specifically, the AAC is responsible for the following:

  • To provide campus-wide leadership in academic assessment
  • To lead in developing/supporting a culture of assessment campus-wide
  • To review academic assessment records and assessment results on a regular basis, which may include the recommendation of assessment instruments to measure student learning and planning appropriate actions based upon data results
  • To assist in the academic assessment process, specifically monitoring the assessment loop and its steps to ensure closure of the loop each academic year
  • To assess the Assessment Program regularly

Membership: The AAC consists of four full faculty members; the director of academic assessment and program development, director of clinical training and operations, learning specialist, and the dean of academic affairs.  It is chaired by the director of academic assessment and program development.

Academic Assessment Program

Those who seek additional information, have questions, or wish to make comments may contact the director of academic assessment and program development, Tammy Aragon, who may be reached at 480.222.9266, or by email at t.aragon@scnm.edu

Program Overview 

The academic assessment program at SCNM was created to enhance student learning throughout the college. It is designed to promote a pervasive culture of continual assessment that guides institutional decision making at all levels. The program is based upon the following:

Vision: A world that embraces the healing power of nature

Mission: SCNM is a school of medicine and health sciences grounded in naturopathic principles. Dedicated to the ideal that everyone deserves high-quality healthcare, we engage students in rigorous innovative academic programs, discover and expand knowledge, and empower individuals and communities to achieve optimal health.

Strategic Plan Area: Academic Excellence

Goal: SCNM engages students in a world class academic program designed to develop their professional identity as naturopathic physicians in a rapidly changing healthcare system. The College enrolls and graduates outstanding ND candidates, recruits expert faculty, develops healthcare partnerships, and expands research to ensure SCNM graduates are among the most successful clinicians and leaders in the naturopathic profession.


1.1 SCNM fosters student success

     1.1.1 NPLEX I pass rate increases to 90% by September 30, 2018

     1.1.2 1st year retention increases to 90% by September 30, 2018

     1.1.3 5 year retention increases to 87% by September 30, 2018

     1.1.4 Graduation rate increases to 76% by September 30, 2018

1.2 SCNM’s clinical training prepares graduates for careers in a rapidly changing healthcare environment

     1.2.1 NPLEX II pass rate increases to 90% by September 30, 2018

     1.2.2 A task force comprised of faculty, students, administrators, and outside healthcare providers/experts, conducts a needs/gap analysis of SCNM student skills, competencies and interdisciplinary healthcare literacy by September 30, 2016

1.3 Build a technologically advanced Biosafety Level 2+ laboratory facility on SCNM's campus

     1.3.1 A task force will conduct a needs assessment for the laboratory, create a campaign plan and actively fundraise the capital needed for the project by September 30, 2016

1.4 SCNM leverages technology to enhance the student academic experience

     1.4.1 A task force explores and pilots technology innovations to utilize outside experts, provide hybrid learning opportunities and reduce seat time by September 30, 2016

1.5 SCNM collaborates with other academic institutions, healthcare organizations, hospitals and clinics

     1.5.1 Embed 7 SCNM naturopathic physicians at a multi-site hospital network, medical home or Federally Qualified Health Center by September 30, 2018

1.6 SCNM expands evidence-based knowledge among Students and Graduates

     1.6.1 Conduct a follow up training on evidence-based instruction by September 30, 2016

Student Learning Outcomes 

Students are expected to demonstrate the following knowledge, skills and attitudes upon completion of the program.

  • The student will demonstrate a commitment to the principles of naturopathic medicine.
  • The student will demonstrate knowledge of basic medical sciences.
  • The student will demonstrate clinical knowledge, skills and attitudes in the care and treatment of patients.
  • The student will demonstrate a commitment to ethics and professionalism.
  • The student will develop skills for scholarship and lifelong learning.  

Assessment Activities

SCNM’s Academic Assessment Program may be viewed in its entirety at the link below.

SCNM Comprehensive Academic Assessment Program

Components of the plan that reference the assessment cycles and instruments may be accessed through the following links:

Timeline Summary for Assessment of Student Learning
Frequency of Assessment by Student Learning Outcome
Frequency of Assessment by Academic Year

SCNM’s academic program is assessed using criteria linked to the student learning outcomes and is recorded on the Assessment Plan and Record Template.

Assessment Plan and Record Template

Rubrics and Instruments 

Both direct and indirect assessment instruments are utilized to determine student learning as given in the following links.

Examples of Assessment Instruments
Assessment Instrument Master List

Assessment Findings

SCNM maintains records of prior year assessment activities to document student learning data and resulting changes in curriculum, assessment and other relevant areas. These records are essential for comparison and provide direction for future work.

Assessment results may be viewed by clicking on the links below.

Academic Assessment Record for 2010-2011
Academic Assessment Record for 2011-2012
Academic Assessment Record for 2012-2013
Academic Assessment Record for 2013-2014
Academic Assessment Record for 2014-2015

Assessment of the Comprehensive Assessment Program Template

Summary and History of Academic Assessment Records (2010-2015)

Institutional Assessment Program

In academic year 2015-2016, the Office of Academic Assessment piloted an institution-wide assessment plan to document evidence of performance in its operations in order to improve its institutional effectiveness, capabilities and sustainability. SCNM is comprised of 22 operational areas. The Operational Area Assessment Planswhich currently include goals, outcomes, procedures, criteria for success and identification of individuals responsible for assessmentmay be viewed by clicking on the link below.

Operational Area Assessment Plans for Pilot Year: 2015-2016


Online Assessment Information 

Books on Assessment 

  • Allen, M.J. (2004). Assessing Academic Programs in Higher Education. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.
  • Bresciani, M. J. (2006). Outcomes-Based Academic and Co-Curricular Program Review: A Compilation of Institutional Good Practices. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
  • Driscoll, A., de Noriega, C., Ramaly, J. (2006). Taking Ownership of Accreditation: Assessment Processes That Promote Institutional Improvement and Faculty Engagement. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
  • Fink, L. D. (2003). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Maki, P. L. (2004). Assessing for Learning: Building a Sustainable Commitment Across the Institution. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
  • Nichols, J. O. & Nichols, K. W. (2000). The Departmental Guide and Record Book for Student Outcomes Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness. Edison, NJ: Agathon Press.
  • Palomba, C. A. & Banta, T. W. (1999). Assessment Essentials: Planning, Implementing, Improving. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Stevens, D. D. & Levi, A. J. (2005). Introduction to Rubrics: An Assessment Tool to Save Grading Time, Convey Effective Feedback and Promote Student Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
  • Suski, L. (2009). Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide, 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Walvord, B. E. (2004). Assessment Clear and Simple. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Walvord, B. E., & Anderson, V. J. (2009). Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment in College, 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.