Mississippi State
Assessment Cycle

Every academic program and academic support unit completes an annual snapshot of its continuous cycle of improvement. This cycle begins by identifying outcomes and assessment procedures in the summer and fall. The unit collects data through fall and spring, and then reflects on those results in spring, summer, and fall of the next cycle. Ideally, units would document what worked well, what didn't work well, and what steps have been implemented toward improving the quality of the unit. A snapshot, known as the institutional effectiveness (IE) report, of a completed cycle occurs in the fall of the subsequent year.

Institutional Effectiveness is the process by which Mississippi State University and all of its academic, academic support, administrative, research, and service units (1) identify expected outcomes, (2) set an assessment protocol to measure the outcomes, (3) report the results of the protocol, and (4) provide evidence of improvement based upon the analysis of the results. The Institutional Effectiveness (IE) process seeks continuous improvement by evaluating MSU’s programs and by reflecting on what has been successful and what areas could be enhanced.

Institutional Effectiveness Process

The annual IE report forms the basis of the assessment process. This report follows the conceptual model of the four-column matrix:

Column 1 Column 2 Column 3 Column 4
Expected outcomes Assessment procedures and criteria for success Assessment results Description of changes that have been implemented or reflection of the improvements that have been made as a result of previous assessment cycles (a.k.a., Use of results)

These IE reports are kept within a centralized data system, TracDat, which the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness maintains. The assessment cycle begins in July of the academic cycle with units completing columns 1 and 2 of the matrix. The cycle ends on August of the following year with units completing columns 3 and 4.


As of Fall 2017, 235 units across campus complete annual IE reports. These units are classified as either (1) academic programs or or (2) academic/student support. From a granular level, each academic program (e.g., bachelor’s, master’s, specialist, and doctoral) set learning and program outcomes, which then are aggregated at the college level, then to a division level, and then to the overall university. The academic/student support units set learning and program outcomes, which are aggregated to a division level and then to the overall university (see Figure 1). Administrative units also complete annual reports as part of the Strategic Plan for the university.

Assessment Cycle

Assessment works as a continuous cycle with certain break points to capture annual reports. While units are reflecting on previous assesssment cycles, they can begin planning the next year's assessment procedures.

The image below depicts the assessment cycle from 2016-17 to 2018-19, as well as the due dates for annual reports within each academic year. A PDF version of this timeline is also available when you click the image below.

Gantt chart of MSU's assessment cycle showing the IE report due date for the next two years at August 31, 2018 and August 30, 2019.

Procedure for Programs with Low Student Enrollment

Academic programs that have had a combined total of five unique students or fewer during Fall & Spring semesters do not need to complete the Institutional Effectiveness (IE) report for the associated academic year. With so few students, meaningful assessment cannot be completed without potentially identifying those students. Instead, programs need to complete an annual reflection about how faculty ensure that students are meeting the program’s learning outcomes and describe any improvements that have been implemented over the past academic year. The staff in Institutional Effectiveness can help with this portion of the report.

Programs that fall under the low-enrollment category for Institutional Effectiveness need to be aware of the Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) “Academic Productivity Review.” This review is described in the Academic and Administrative Guidelines and is triggered when graduation rates of academic programs fall below specified levels.

Please note that the low-enrollment procedure applies only to academic majors/programs and not to the concentrations of emphases within the academic majors.