IRB Review of Assessment Projects
Most institutional assessment activities fall outside the purview of the Institutional Review Board. Muhlenberg’s IRB oversees research with human participants. Federal regulations define research as “a systematic investigation, including research development, designed to develop or contribute to generalizeable knowledge.” (Code of Federal Regulations, 45 CFR 46.102(d)). Course, program, or institutional assessment per se does not meet this definition, as its aim is internal quality improvement, rather than a contribution to generalizeable knowledge.
However, members of the Muhlenberg community may wish to repurpose the information gathered in the assessment process for their own research. If an individual wishes to publish, present, or otherwise disseminate such information beyond program improvement or accreditation purposes, then the entire assessment plan must be approved by the IRB. This approval cannot be retroactive; therefore, we recommend that investigators think carefully about the potential research uses of the data they are gathering. If you are uncertain about the potential research uses of the information you are collecting, it is best practice to err on the side of caution and submit an IRB application. We encourage you to discuss your assessment activities with an IRB member to determine whether your efforts require review.