Glossary of Institutional Effectiveness Terms

Academic program - any undergraduate, graduate, or certificate program that has been assigned a unique Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code. CIP codes for Appalachian's programs can be found in the Academic Program Inventory (API) on the Registrar's website. For the purposes of assessment, each program level (undergraduate, graduate and/or certificate) is considered its own academic program and may have their own set of student learning outcomes.

Action plan – steps a unit is going to take to improve when assessment results do not meet pre-established expectations.

Annual report – a unit's report on assessment activities, achievements, and challenges over the past year.

APortfolio - the name for an ePortfolio, or electronic portfolio, at Appalachian.

Assessment - the annual process of critical self-examination with the aim of program improvement. The assessment process involves gathering evidence about a selected outcome, making meaning of the gathered evidence, determining if results are satisfactory, implementing any necessary action plans, and reassessing an outcome to determine if changes were effective.

Assessment plan – a unit's declaration of what it will assess for the current cycle, including goals, outcomes, measures, and numeric criteria.

Assessment report – a unit's report on assessment results and any necessary action plans if an expected criteria was not met.

Closing the loop – when a unit makes a change in response to assessment results revealing that a criterion has not been met, then measures again to determine the effect of the change.

Criterion - part of an assessment plan that establishes a threshold of acceptable performance level.

Curriculum map – a table that demonstrates where in a curriculum a program's student learning outcomes are addressed.

Direct measure – a performance-based indicator of success. Direct measures include exams/tests, course-embedded assessments, portfolios, capstone projects, performances, presentations, exhibits, internship evaluations, and clinical evaluations.

ePortfolio – an electronic portfolio is a personal academic website that provides a holistic view of a student's learning and best work. An ePortfolio can be used for program assessment and to showcase individual student work.

External review – part of a periodic comprehensive review that provides an external perspective regarding the quality and effectiveness of a unit's programs, services, resources, processes, and operations. Its purpose is to assure an objective, unbiased assessment of the unit. The external review must consist of reviewers from outside of the department and may include reviewers from off-campus.

Goal – a broad statement meant to relate one of the main aims of a unit.

Implementation plan - a plan developed after a unit has completed a self-study and external review, in the form of a set of operational goals and outcomes that sets the agenda for change and quality enhancement for the unit until the next periodic comprehensive review.

Indirect measure – a non-performance based indicator of success. Indirect measures include results from surveys, focus groups, interviews, retention and graduation rates, involvement records, and graduate school and job placement rates.

Institutional effectiveness - the on-going, comprehensive process at Appalachian that integrates strategic planning, assessment, periodic unit comprehensive review, annual reporting, and resource allocations for the purpose of improvement.

Method – the evidence, or measure, a unit uses to determine whether an outcome has been met.

Operational outcome – a specific, measureable statement about a program's efforts to improve.

Periodic comprehensive review - an ongoing process through which units evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of programs and services to facilitate decision-making and quality enhancement. At least once every 7 years, units will prepare a self-study, undergo an external review, and develop an implementation plan.

Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) – part of the SACS reaffirmation process is the development of a focused course of action that addresses an issue related to enhancing student learning. Go to for more information about Appalachian's QEP entitled "Global Learning: A World of Opportunities for Appalachian Students."

Rubric – scoring tools developed to help evaluate qualitative data by providing a specific set of criteria to be rated and what is needed to achieve each level of performance for each criterion.

SACSCOC – The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) is the regional body for accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states, including Appalachian.

Self-study – part of a unit's periodic comprehensive review that involves an in-depth self-examination of all aspects of the unit, including mission, demand, quality, faculty/staff competence and resources. The self-study at Appalachian involves responding to a list of standards to identify strengths of a unit and potential areas for quality enhancement.

Strategic direction – one of the six major goals of Appalchian's current strategic plan.

Strategic plan – Appalachian's current strategic plan, The Appalachian Experience: Envisioning a Just and Sustainable Future, provides direction for the campus between July 2014 and June 2019.

Student learning outcome (SLO) - a concise, measureable statement about what students will be able to do as a result of participating in a program. All academic programs at Appalachian are required to maintain an updated list of student learning outcomes, which are shared publicly.

Reporting unit – the organizational level at which assessment or periodic comprehensive review happens. Units include all organizational entities that provide educational and administrative programs or services; includes colleges, departments, schools, programs, centers and institutes (degree and non-degree granting), and program and service centers.

Xitracs – the institutional effectiveness reporting tool used by Appalachian. The Xitracs software is used for reporting related to re-accreditation or compliance, periodic comprehensive reviews, strategic planning, student learning outcomes, and annual assessment activities.