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Phoenix Seminary Assessment Philosophy

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“Assessment” is a term used in higher education to refer to an extended and on-going process of self-evaluation intended to establish for a school and the public that its educational programs are effective. Assessment data are used to improve courses, curricula, academic programs and many aspects of an institution’s life and practices. All accredited institutions of higher learning engage in assessment activities.

Phoenix Seminary embraces intentional, on-going assessment of our institutional effectiveness as a tangible manifestation of our commitment to Christian integrity and stewardship. To this end we seek to be an institution wisely using the resources God entrusts to us by becoming increasingly proficient and professional in accomplishing our mission.

Because of this philosophy, the board, administration, faculty and staff of the Seminary have for many years engaged in various kinds of analysis of our effectiveness. Our 2019-21 Comprehensive Assessment Plan reflects commitments to best practices embodied in the standards of our two accrediting agencies: The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

The assessment activities of the Seminary are overseen by the Assistant Dean of Assessment working with the Provost and the Assessment Committee—composed largely of full-time resident faculty and academic administrators. This arrangement helps ensure that all departments remain focused on our educational mission.

Because we are committed to transparency, the following downloadable material covers virtually all of our assessment process including: student learning outcomes; our Comprehensive Assessment Plan; listings of our assessment resources; our current assessment activities (and associated calendars); evidence of student learning displayed in annual summaries of outcomes assessment for each academic program; and indications (in annual summary) of how assessment results are being used to improve our educational effectiveness. Those who seek additional information, have questions, or wish to make comments may contact the Seminary’s Assistant Dean of Assessment, Roma Royer, who may be reached at 602.429.4947 or by email at

The nature and scope of assessment at Phoenix Seminary is indicated in the table of contents of our current year Comprehensive Institutional Assessment Plan:

Table of Contents 2019-2021

Phoenix Seminary Assessment Committee

2019-21 Members: Michael Thigpen (Provost); John DelHousaye; Peter Gurry; Roma Royer (Chair and Assistant Dean of Assessment); Justin Smith.

Description: The Assessment Committee works in cooperation with the Assistant Dean of Assessment to plan, implement, and evaluate the assessment activities of the Seminary and to document improvements made as a consequence of the institution’s assessment activities. From time-to-time the Seminary faculty, acting as a committee of the whole, function as the assessment committee, particularly in regard to discussion and development of learning outcomes, assessment instruments, evaluation criteria and rubrics, as well as discussion of areas for change/improvement identified through the assessment process. The assessment committee is charged with the following: (a) approval of assessment program goals as reflected in the annual assessment plan; (b) oversight of the assessment process, including implementation and completion of the assessment loop each academic year; (c) assessment of the assessment plan; and (d) decisions regarding management of assessment materials.

Assessment Purpose and Goals at Phoenix Seminary

Purpose of assessment: To improve the Seminary by providing data for the planning, development, continuation and improvement of quality academic, administrative, operational and student services functions. Data collected are utilized to initiate necessary change in institutional governance, budgeting, strategic planning, administration and operations, academic programs, student support services and programs. Assessment activities also ensure that the Seminary has meaningful data for evaluation of its stewardship of resources, integrity, ability to accomplish its mission and service to the public.

Goals of assessment:

  • To ensure Christian integrity and effective stewardship
  • To become increasingly effective and professional in realizing our educational mission
  • To improve student learning and their professional and spiritual development
  • To enhance our curricula and instruction
  • To align strategic planning, assessment, and budget requirements
  • To foster compliance with the requirements for accreditation
  • To demonstrate compliance with applicable federal regulations

2019-21 Assessment Plan

Each year the Seminary’s assessment committee reviews the findings of the prior year assessment plan. The effectiveness of the plan itself and associated instruments are evaluated and changes made as analysis of data and experience indicate is necessary. Evaluation of the plan itself normally takes place in the fall semester, hence the website displays the prior year’s plan until the current year’s plan is approved by the assessment committee and the Board of Directors. This is usually done at the board retreat in mid-November.

Links to elements of the current academic year Comprehensive Assessment Plan:

The Phoenix Seminary 2019-21 Comprehensive Assessment Plan is a large document. It may be accessed through the following link:

2019-21 Comprehensive Assessment Plan

The Comprehensive Assessment Plan may also be viewed in the following sections:

Academic Assessment:

The Seminary seeks, in God’s grace, to produce graduates who have the knowledge, skills and character qualities essential to effective ministry. These are summarized in our Educational Values. Each academic program at Phoenix Seminary is linked to the Educational Values through alignment of student learning outcomes and individual course learning outcomes. These relationships are laid out in the following pages from our assessment plan:

Degree Program Outcomes 2019-21

Program and Course Alignment Charts 2019-21

Assessment takes place in a planned cycle, with outcomes evaluated according to calendars, using instruments and various tools. These are explained in the following pages from our assessment plan:

Assessment Calendar & Instruments 2019-21

The Seminary’s academic programs are each assessed using student learning outcomesThe academic assessment template and assessment plans (which also serve as records) for each degree or diploma program are given on the following pages, extracted from the comprehensive assessment plan:

Academic Program Assessment Plan Template 2019-21

Degree Program Assessment Plans 2019-21

Non-Academic Assessment:

Although traditional educational assessment focuses on student learning in academic programs, at Phoenix Seminary we also apply assessment criteria (to foster better service and incorporate best practices) in all major areas of Operations. Departments and offices use a template similar to that employed in academics, adapted to the specific activities of each area. Operations assessment plans may be examined in the following pages from the comprehensive assessment plan.

Operations Assessment Update

Prior Cycle Assessment History:

Phoenix Seminary maintains records of prior year assessment activities (2007-2019). These provide useful comparative data to the assessment committee and an archive for accreditation purposes and public examination. Because of the size of these historical records, they are not all posted here. Those not posted may be consulted by appointment with our director of assessment.

The 2019-21 Comprehensive Assessment Plan appears in segments above. This plan includes 2017-19 assessment results as “historical data” for comparison, as approved by the Assessment Committee, including summaries of data analysis, recommended changes for each academic program, and a task list for follow–up accountability. 2017-19 assessment results may be viewed by clicking on the link below:

Prior Cycle Academic Assessment History 2017-19

Assessment of Online Learning

Phoenix Seminary’s assessment of student learning outcomes in its academic online learning program takes place in the same manner it does on campus—through academic program assessment plans—see foregoing links to these plans. Direct measures include both online and ground students and results will be analyzed both separately and together. In addition, an operational assessment plan for Online Education is utilized and is accessible through the following link:

Online Learning Assessment Plan


Current Phoenix Seminary faculty rubrics:

To assist in ensuring greater objectivity in evaluating student work, seminary faculty have developed a number of rubrics. A “rubric” is a scoring tool listing the requirements for a research paper, other course assignment, or examination. Typically rubrics break an assignment into a number of parts and indicate performance criteria for the several elements. Rubrics are valuable educationally because they convey useful feedback to students and encourage student learning. They are important to students because they define expectations, provide performance criteria and increase objectivity in evaluating student work. They are especially important to faculty in contexts such as an oral examination, where multiple examiners or jury members render decisions about a student’s competency in responding to questions. In such contexts, rubrics provide greater “inter-rater reliability.” That is, they reduce subjectivity among the examiners opinions because the criteria for evaluation are spelled out, and consequently their use tends to produce greater consensus regarding student performance.

For the purpose of juried reviews, the seminary has begun using rubrics for course-embedded assignments that are linked directly to the student learning outcomes. The following document contains examples of rubrics used at Phoenix Seminary.

Rubrics at Phoenix Seminary

On-line Assessment Information:

Books on Assessment:

  • M. J. Allen, Assessing Academic Programs in Higher Education, (Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing, 2004).
  • Trudy W. Banta and Catherine A. Palomba, Assessment Essentials: Planning, Implementing, Improving, 2nd edition, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014).
  • Susan M. Butler and Nancy D. McMunn, A Teacher’s Guide to Classroom Assessment: Understanding and Using Assessment to Improve Student Learning, 1st edition, (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2014).
  • A. Driscoll, D. Cordero de Noriega and J. Ramaly, Taking Ownership of Accreditation: Assessment Processes That Promote Institutional Improvement and Faculty Engagement, (Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2006).
  • Sarah Drummond, Holy Clarity: The Practice of Planning and Evaluation, (Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 2009).
  • Judith Grunert, Barbara J. Millis and Margaret W. Cohen, The Course Syllabus: A Learning-Centered Approach,2nd edition, (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass [Wiley imprint], 2008).
  • William R. Meyers, Closing the Assessment “Loop”: Nurturing Healthy, On-going Self-evaluation in Theological Schools, (Chicago, IL: Exploration Press, 2006).
  • Peggy L. Maki, Assessing for Learning: Building a Sustainable Commitment Across the Institution, 2nd edition, (Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2010). [An American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) publication].
  • Dannelle D. Stevens and Antonia J. Levi, Introduction to Rubrics: An Assessment Tool to Save Grading Time, Convey Effective Feedback and Promote Student Learning, 2nd edition, (Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2012).
  • Linda Suski, Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide, 2nd edition, (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2009).
  • Barbara E. Walvoord, Assessment Clear and Simple, 2nd edition, (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010).
  • Barbara E. Walvord and Virginia J. Anderson, Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment in College, 2nd edition, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2009).

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