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Administrative Assessment Terms at UC Merced

The definitions and descriptions below reflect the assessment-related vocabulary of our campus.

They are derived from UC Merced policy and related support documents and/or the literature.  Please know that these terms may be used differently by other organizations.

The list is alphabetical. Click on the letter below to drop the relevant section.

A l B l C l D l E l G l I l L l M l O l P l R l S l U l V

To propose an addition to the glossary, contact Laura Martin.


Actions/Action Items - A discrete task that can be accomplished, usually by a single individual, team or group.

Annual Assessment Report – A summary of a unit’s annual assessment activities submitted to the Dean or Vice Chancellor and, in turn, to the Periodic Review Oversight Committee that addresses (1) the unit’s progress in meeting its outcomes, (2) associated actions for improvement addressing unit services and/or programs and, as necessary, the assessment process, and, as relevant, (3) progress on WASC-related action items and (4) contributions to institutional assessment initiatives.

Assessment – The process by which an administrative unit gathers and evaluates evidence of the extent to which it is meeting its desired service outcomes and, on the basis of this evidence, takes action to maintain or improve the quality of its services and its effectiveness. In this way, assessment is an evidence/data-informed means for unit planning and enables continuous improvement.


Benchmark - A professional standard or point of reference against which assessment results are compared. 


Campus Partner - Individuals or groups outside of one’s unit or department that collaborate or work together to accomplish a common goal or task.

Conclusion - Opinions or judgements based on results/findings of assessment data, typically with respect to the extent to which an intended outcome has been met.

Customer - A person or group that purchases, or utilizes services or goods.  Groups or individuals may provide services to each other (internally) within the context of a customer/client relationship. However, the combined efforts of these individuals often work to provide services or goods to the end customer (students, researchers, etc.). This definition of “customer” also encompasses governing bodies and external regulators.


Data - Individual facts, statistics or items of information assembled to support an analysis (for instance, the extent to which an intended outcome has been achieved). Data can be quantitative or qualitative. Data are a means for measuring achievement of an outcome.

Departmental Philosophy - A unifying  concept that reflects the sum total of mission, vision and values for an organization.


Evidence - Data or information presented in support of an assertion like an outcomes statement (e.g. a statement describing the expected quality of a service or process). In its broadest sense, evidence includes everything that is used to determine the truth of an assertion/expected outcome and can be quantitative or qualitative in nature. The term also refers to the types of information/data to be gathered to test the truth of an outcomes statement. Evidence may be gathered that describes employee effort (e.g. number of requests for support processed per day) and the impact of that effort (e.g. recipients of support consistently report the support addressed their needs, completely and in a timely manner).


Goals - Goals are broad statements that describe priorities and intentions of an administrative unit; what the unit intends to do. Service goals describe a core service/function of a unit and intended qualities of the service. 


Initiative - A project, process, plan or other action that arises from a desire to accomplish an enterprise level goal, such as improving student retention, reducing costs or increasing customer satisfaction. A typical initiative is expressed as a process and includes metrics and time frames. It may be a formal, named project, a pilot project, or an informal executive directive. An initiative serves as a focal point for attracting the resources needed to accomplish a goal.


Learning Outcome - A statement describing how a customer (or student) will demonstrate what they know or are able to do, or how they have changed, as a result of the unit’s program or service.  Learning outcomes often begin with the phrase “Participants will be able to…” Units that provide professional development or required training for faculty or staff will likely develop learning outcomes to assess the efficacy of their programming in meeting unit goals. Similarly, units or departments that work directly with students, like those in Student Affairs, will have student learning outcomes.


Mission Statement - A statement articulating what an organization does, for whom, and how.


Organizational Health - An organization's ability to align its efforts with its strategic goals, execute its strategic plan and/or turn ideas into actions, and renew itself2.

Organizational Review/Diagnosis - A process that involves the three steps of publicly entering an organization, collecting valid data about experiences, and feeding data back into the organization  as a means of assessing and building organizational health. Typically, the goal of organizational diagnosis is to provide organizational awareness, and to build commitment for intentional change as part of a strategic planning effort.

Outcome - A precise statement articulating the desired accomplishment of an administrative unit with respect to a core service. An outcome statement should be derived from a goal and, thus, describe how a unit is fulfilling a purpose outlined by that goal in a measurable way. Put another way, outcome statements animate goals, specifying the manner in which the goal is to be met and measured.  Clear and precise outcomes statements also define specific performance expectations for a unit. In doing so, they indicate the kind of evidence/data the unit will collect to ascertain the extent to which the desired outcome has been met.  Two different types of outcomes can be recognized: process outcomes and learning outcomes. Properties of a quality outcome are available here (see p.2).

Objective - The term “objective” is synonymous with outcome, but is often used to describe an intended outcome1 (as opposed to the actual, realized outcome).


Periodic Review – An evidence-based, comprehensive review of an administrative unit undertaken once every seven years for the purposes of long term planning. 

Process Metric - A direct measurement of the extent to which a service goal has been completed with specific desired qualities, such as timeliness, accuracy, responsiveness, etc. For example, the percentage of reports submitted before a deadline, or the percentage of reports returned with errors.

Process Outcome - A statement articulating a desired quality like timeliness, accuracy, responsiveness, etc. in relation to a service goal. These types of outcomes support improvement around issues related to efficiency and customer satisfaction3.


Recommendations - Statements identifying aspects of organizational function to strengthen and/or issues to be addressed. Recommendations may propose strategies to address concerns or models/examples to consider in formulating solutions.

Reliability - The degree to which a procedure is expected to generate the same observation repeatedly under the same conditions. It is the consistency of the measurement or result. Results are reliable if they are repeatable.


Self-study – A planning document authored by a unit, for an external audience, as first step in the periodic review process. A self-study generally describes what a unit does, how well (as demonstrated through annual assessment), how it has improved, how effective its assessment process has been as a means for guiding improvement, and its future plans in light of larger institutional plans and priorities and/or those of the profession itself.

Stakeholder -  A person, group or organization that has a vested interest in the outcome of an initiative, project or goal.

Strategic Planning - An organization's process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy. Strategy has many definitions, but generally involves setting goals, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the actions. A strategy describes how the ends (goals) will be achieved by the means (resources)4. Assessment is a means by which progress and outcomes of a strategic plan may be measured. Assessment also promotes alignment of unit activities with the strategic plan and/or informs foci for a strategic plan.

Survey - The questionnaire, or the act of using the questionnaire, to gather information from a population of stakeholders at UC (e.g. applicants, students, faculty, staff, and alumni).


Unit - As per UC Merced policy, a functional group tasked with specific responsibilities that is located within a school or administrative entity (ex. a division) led by a dean, vice chancellor or equivalent. The term division refers to a non-academic, administrative domain composed of one or more units reporting to a vice chancellor.


Validity -The extent to which an assessment procedure generates useful information (data/evidence) that bears directly on the expectation(s) described by the text of the unit’s outcome. For learning outcomes, valid evidence must also be aligned with the criteria5 used to evaluate learning. 

Values/Principles Statement -  A statement describing what the organization believes in and how it will behave.

Vision Statement - A vision statement describes the organization as it would appear in a future successful state6.

1 The Division of Student Affairs refers to these types of outcomes as Program Objectives.

2Lencioni, Patrick. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012. Print

3 UC Merced Policy for Annual Assessment and Periodic Review of Administrative Units.

4 Mintzberg, Henry and, Quinn, James Brian (1996). The Strategy Process:Concepts, Contexts, Cases. Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-132-340304.

5 Criteria are the specific skills or abilities to be measured. 

6 Mission & Vision Statements: What is the difference between mission, vision and values statements? (12, December 20). Retrieved from