• Conceptual Framework 

    Establishing a culture of assessment is often described as the ideal state by assessment professionals and enthusiasts.  Culture is complex - involving attitudes and behaviors - and there is no one set of foolproof steps for creating a culture of assessment.  But it is possible to cultivate such a culture, and the theory behind Communities of Practice1 (CoP) provides the conceptual framework for doing so.

    A CoP is a group of people that shares interest in a domain and develops expertise in the domain through regular interaction and activity.  The elements2 of a CoP are:

    • The Domain - The raison d'etre for the CoP. Domains meld together the needs of the University with the interest of the participants.
    • The Community - The regular, open interactions around the domain that promote sharing of perspectives and development of understandings.
    • The Practice - The shared symbols, methods, concepts, language, procedures, and ways of doing things developed and embodied by the members.

    The Assessment Office employs this framework in its planning and activities. Principles for cultivating CoPs take into account:

    • Evolution of communities and of what is consisdered valued practice;
    • Differences in perspectives and participation intensity;
    • Balancing of rhythm, familiarity, and newness/change in a community.3  

    For more information on Communities of Practice:

    • An accessible OVERVIEW: infed.
    • THEORETICAL perspectives: 1Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
      2Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  Both available in the Assessment Office, 108C Hepburn Hall.
    • PRACTICAL APPLICATION to organizational learning: 3Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. M. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Also available in the Assessment Office, H108C.


    • Association for Assessment of Learning in Higher Education (AALHE).  A relatively new practitioner-oriented organization. Is developing a list of resources, one of which is the ASSESS listserv.
    • Network for Change and Continuous Innovation (NCCI).  An organization devoted to  institutional collaboration aimed at advancing academic and administrative excellence.
    • National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA). Reports on research and shares best practices in higher education assessment. Includes an extensive set of resources on the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP).