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Assessing Student Learning Outcomes*. * Adapted from the University of Virginia. Assessment is a process of gathering and interpreting information to discover if a program is meeting established goals and then using that information to enhance the program. Why Assess?.

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assessing student learning outcomes

Assessing Student Learning Outcomes*

* Adapted from the University of Virginia


Assessmentis a process of gathering and interpreting information to discover if a program is meeting established goals and then using that information to enhance the program.


Why Assess?

“The College demonstrates that each educational program for which academic credit is awarded (a) is approved by the faculty and the administration, and (b) establishes and evaluates program and learning outcomes.”


Why Assess?

To maintain, foster, and improve

the unique teaching and research environment.


Assessments should:

  • Be useful and feasible.
  • Minimize burden on faculty and students.

Programs define their own most important outcomes.

Methods should be simple and connected to what faculty are already doing.


More About How

  • Begin with what you value most.
  • Faculty involvement is essential.
  • The unit of analysis for assessment is the program.
  • Results should be used to make program improvements.
  • The V.P.A. is committed to providing support.

Future Expectations

How will assessment activities be reported in the future?

  • Program Review
  • Annual reports
  • Accreditation

“Good assessments give reasonably accurate, truthful information.”

Why do we insist on measuring it with a micrometer when we mark it with chalk and cut it with an axe?

--Peter Ewell

In assessment, “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” Let’s keep striving for the good.

--Tom Angelo

An approximate answer to the right question is worth a good deal more than an exact answer to an approximate question.

--J. W. Tukey

Slide replicated from Linda Suskie’sAchieving Middle States’ Expectations for Assessing Student Learning, a presentation to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, May 2005. Used with permission.

part ii learning outcomes

Part IILearning Outcomes:

Defining & Developing


What is a Student Learning Outcome?

Student learning outcomes are properly defined in terms of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that a student has obtained at the end (or as a result) of his or her engagement in a specific program.

the leading question
The Leading Question

What do students need to know and be able to do after they graduate from this program?


Be aware of covert versus overt performance criteria.

learning outcome critique
Learning Outcome Critique

Does the learning outcome:

  • Use action verbs?
  • Describe what students can do?
  • Include a time frame (at the end of a course, end of the second year, etc.)?
  • Ask students to apply what they’ve learned by producing something?
  • Address student competency rather than content coverage?
  • Represent a fundamental result of the course/program?
  • Represent an appropriate level of work?

Steps in Student Learning Outcomes Assessment

  • Identify student learning outcomes.
  • Develop methods to assess the outcomes.
  • Collect the data.
  • Analyze the findings.
  • Consider appropriate action.
relationship of mission goals and outcomes

Student Learning Outcomes

Departmental Goals

College Statement

School Mission Statement

Relationship of Mission, Goals, and Outcomes

Opportunities for Measuring Student Learning Outcomes

  • Course embedded assignments

(Papers, exams, projects)

  • Capstone courses
  • Thesis/dissertation
  • Internships/practicums
  • Comprehensive exams
  • Employer ratings of graduates’ skills

As much as possible, use what you are already doing!


Student Learning Outcome Assessment Methods

Direct Assessments

  • Standardized tests
  • Licensure or professional exams
  • Rubrics
    • Essays/Papers
    • Exam questions
    • Exhibits
    • Performances/Presentations
    • Portfolios of student work
    • Comprehensive exams

Indirect Assessments

  • Surveys
    • Student
    • Alumni
    • Employer
  • End-of-course memos
  • Focus groups
  • Exit interviews
  • Course evaluations

How much assessment?How often?

  • Start with the most important program outcomes. At least two should be learning outcomes.
  • Focus on what is useful for program improvement.
  • Not all outcomes can, or should, be assessed.
  • Stagger assessments over multiple years.
  • Allow time for analysis.