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Abstract

Purpose: Expectations for public accountability, including accreditation, challenge allied health science educational programs to develop a sound program assessment plan. However, program assessment is often detached from what faculty feel is important. What is needed is a model for assessment that allows faculty to adapt assessment processes so they can ask their own questions and obtain useful findings that guide their decisions about program improvement. The purpose of this paper is to posit our model for program assessment, provide an example of implementation of the model, and discuss its value. Model Description and Implementation: Our proposed model is rooted in the needs assessment frameworks developed by respected experts in higher education program assessment. A goal of our model was to make it less complex than prior models but universally flexible, and to include the 5 elements we deem essential. This paper explains the conceptual basis of the model and describes its two process cycles (questions and decisions), the first of which prompt faculty to ask important assessment questions and identify appropriate methods, data sources and stakeholders for inquiring about the question. The second cycle facilitates faculty to analyze the data and make appropriate decisions about program change. One question about student learning related to decision making is used as an example of the model implementation for program assessment. Results: The model cycles clarified the extent of student and employer perceived needs in clinical decision making. The model also illustrated to faculty how to make decisions about program change and follow with ongoing assessment. The effectiveness of the model to engage faculty in data driven program assessment is discussed. Conclusion: A heuristic assessment model can direct faculty to identify important questions and implement meaningful data collection which leads to focused program decisions. Our model facilitates faculty ownership of crucial questions, guides an assessment process that reveals the extent of program needs, and leads to measured program changes.

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