Student Progress Assessment

Overview

The Student Progress Assessment (SPA) is an online tool that communicates and documents an evaluation of a graduate student’s progress in their degree program.  The tool promotes productive discussions and the setting of clear goals and expectations for graduate students. Graduate Council expects that the assessment will be completed during an in-person meeting between the mentor and the mentee. The online Student Progress Assessment content and format has been developed and approved by Graduate Council, in collaboration with the Graduate Student Association and Graduate Studies.

Annual SPA

An annual progress assessment must be completed for each graduate student between April 1st and June 30th.  This report includes questions to guide graduate students and faculty discussions on professional development plans, coursework requirements, exam or thesis/dissertation progress, goals and expectations, and meeting/communication expectations. The annual progress meeting creates an opportunity for mentors to discuss how graduate students can successfully meet their unique academic and professional goals.

Sample of Annual SPA Report Questions

Interim SPA

An interim report is a brief, one-page online progress report that allows major professors and/or graduate programs to address or remedy issues of concern regarding academic progress outside of Spring Quarter (when the annual assessment is used).  Interim reports are not required of all graduate students and are often used to document a progress issue. Multiple interim reports can be submitted for one student during Fall and Winter quarters, prior to the launch of the Annual SPA in Spring quarter.  Graduate programs should issue follow-up reports as appropriate, including in the annual SPA. 

Assessment Options

Both interim and annual reports will ask for a progress assessment of satisfactory, marginal, or unsatisfactory. 

  • Satisfactory Progress
  • If a student’s progress is satisfactory, the major professor and/or graduate advisor should discuss with the student the remaining steps to attain the degree objective, and offer additional guidance on meeting individual goals for the upcoming year. No letter is sent from the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies.  This report will be saved as part of the student’s record in GradHub.
  • Marginal Progress
  • A marginal report indicates a progress issue, but one that only has a slight impact on the student’s degree completion.  This rating serves as a warning to graduate students to begin addressing an issue before it has more significant consequences for their progress.  The major professor and/or graduate program advisor should describe why the student’s progress is marginal and what steps must be taken in the next academic quarter for the student to remedy the issue(s). A detailed timeline should be provided in the report for the student with the appropriate steps to make satisfactory progress. The Graduate Advisor (not solely the major professor) should be in touch with this student regularly to ensure they return to satisfactory progress. No letter is sent from the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and the report is saved in GradHub.

    A second report (interim or annual) should be submitted at the end of the following quarter to provide an update on the student’s performance.  Ideally, all expectations will have been met and the faculty member can submit a satisfactory report at that time.
  • Unsatisfactory Progress
  • The designation unsatisfactory means that something is impeding the student’s progress and it needs to be addressed in order for the student to succeed.  Faculty members must explain why the progress is unsatisfactory and provide a detailed timeline of expectations for improvement. In cases where the graduate student is registered in 299 units, unsatisfactory progress related to research should be reflected in both the research grade (S/U) and the SPA.  No student will be disqualified based on one unsatisfactory progress report. The student must have at least one quarter to remedy whatever is unsatisfactory about their work. Therefore, the progress report should not recommend disqualification.  The Graduate Advisor (not solely the major professor) should be in regular contact with the student to ensure they return to good academic progress.

    A second report should be submitted at the end of the following quarter to review the student’s performance.  Ideally, all expectations will have been met and the faculty can submit a satisfactory report.
  • Outcome of an Unsatisfactory SPA
  • SPA is a tool used to track student progress, and to assist students and programs in documenting challenges, expectations, and action plans.  Unsatisfactory SPA's are not intended to be punitive, and do not result in direct consequences for the student.  Graduate Studies Advisors and the Associate Dean are included in the process to provide additional advising resources, clarify plans, and advocate for student support. 

      • Unsatisfactory assessments do not affect the student’s ability to be employed or receive fellowships, though programs may use SPA results in determining internal awards or assigning positions. 
      • Unsatisfactory assessments are not reflected on a student’s transcript and students are not placed on academic probation status.   
      • The Senior Academic Advisors and the Graduate Studies Associate Dean for Students review all unsatisfactory SPA’s, and may contact faculty or students to discuss and clarify the plan to reach satisfactory progress or to suggest additional resources.  
      • A notice from the Graduate Studies Associate Dean will be sent to the student through the SPA platform.  The letter reiterates the requirements and timeline included in the major professor and Graduate Advisor comments.  
      • Students are not disqualified for receiving an unsatisfactory SPA, but may be eligible for a program recommendation of disqualification if they do not meet the requirements for satisfactory progress outlined in the faculty comments and Associate Dean notice. More information about the criteria and process are available on the Disqualification webpage. 

Student Acknowledgement and Comments

Graduate students will have access to view all reports (interim and annual).  They will be given the opportunity to acknowledge the assessment, but if they do not do so within two weeks, the report will route accordingly.  All graduate students can provide comments to their faculty and/or to Graduate Studies. If they wish to share comments with Graduate Studies only, they can select this option and their comments will be hidden from the program.  The option allows graduate students to report issues or concerns directly to Graduate Studies.

Suggestions for Graduate Students

  • Prepare for a productive meeting by reviewing the questions in advance (Sample Annual SPA Questions), along with your transcript and degree requirements.
  • Schedule a meeting with your major professor (or Graduate Advisor if you do not yet have a major professor) to complete the assessment.  Send any relevant materials in advance, such as SPA questions, transcript, funding plans, conference proposals, written drafts, etc.
  • Connect your academic progress to your career development by completing an IDP or ImaginePhD.  Consider whether you have questions for your professor or Advisor about career development.
  • Prepare any questions you have related to your goals or your professor’s / Advisor’s expectations for you. 
  • Meet with your major professor (or Graduate Advisor if you do not have a major professor).  Allow ample time to complete the assessment (at least 30 minutes). 
  • As you reflect on the meeting, you can acknowledge the assessment or add comments to the final assessment.  If you are concerned about your progress or the expectations outlined in the assessment, schedule an appointment with a Senior Academic Advisor.

Suggestions for Faculty

  • Use the SPA to document your meeting so that everyone is in agreement about the student’s progress and any specific steps the student needs to make to continue or return to making satisfactory progress.
  • Use objective, factual language that clearly evaluates the student’s progress.  For example, “Student X has not completed a research proposal or taken the qualifying exam by the required sixth quarter per program degree requirements.”
  • Avoid subjective statements, opinions, personality critiques, or predictions for the student’s future.  Example: “Student X isn’t motivated and at this rate will not successfully pass the qualifying exam.”
  • Detail action items with precise deadlines.
  • Do not assess a student on:
    • Personal issues (medical/mental health, pregnancy/family obligations).  Faculty should refer any student who needs support to campus resources.
    • Conduct (plagiarism, behavior). Faculty should report these issues directly to OSSJA.
    • Employment issues with no academic component for the student (such as TA performance).  Faculty should report these issues to Academic Personnel by emailing Tracey Pereida at tgpereida@ucdavis.edu. 
  • If you are concerned about a student’s progress, have questions about the assessment, policy/procedure, or the logistics of proposed requirements, or would like to learn more about resources available to students, contact the Senior Academic Advisors (SAA’s) (gradservices@ucdavis.edu).
  • If you are concerned about a student's well-being, submit a Student Support Referral to OSSJA, and Case Managers will follow-up with the student to offer resources and support.  

Graduate Program Advisors

Graduate Studies recommends that Graduate Advisors meet as a group to discuss the use of progress reports in their academic program. Graduate Advisors can provide guidance to faculty, ensure that ratings are used consistently and appropriately (satisfactory/marginal/unsatisfactory) and verify that students have been given fair, objective timelines for improvement (with at least one future quarter to meet the expectations).  By reviewing submitted progress reports, Graduate Advisors can also identify conflicts and assist mentors and mentees in finding resolutions. In several programs, groups of Graduate Advisors meet to discuss annual reports before routing them to the students and Graduate Studies. This has proven very effective in addressing conflicts or miscommunications between students and faculty members early on.

Technical Guidance

More information on how to use SPA can be found on our SPA Help pages.