Office of Institutional Research and Assessment

Student Learning Outcomes Assessment – Best Practices

Assessing student learning outcomes is a process that is best done by faculty in the academic program. Learning outcomes are discipline-specific, and are appropriate to the degree level.

Best practices* in assessing learning outcomes include:

Clearly articulated statements of expected student learning outcomes

  • Outcomes are appropriately integrated with one another
  • Outcomes articulate with the university’s mission
  • Outcomes are congruent with the relevant discipline
  • Outcomes are expected of all the program’s graduates

A systematic, well-documented assessment process

  • Measures clearly match the outcome statement
  • Uses multiple, direct measures of learning, both quantitative and qualitative
  • Maximizes existing data and information
  • Process can be repeated by other reviewers, and in the future to produce consistent results

Assessment results must provide convincing evidence that students are achieving learning outcomes

  • Results are meaningful demonstrations of student learning
  • High quality, robust assessment that allows results to be used with confidence

Assessment results are used to inform decision making and program improvement

  • Results are used by faculty to improve teaching and learning
  • Results are used by institutional leaders to improve programs, institutional goals, and resource allocation

Strategies for Assessing Student Learning Outcomes

Direct measures are best

  • Tests and exams: standardized or discipline-specific; locally produced, course-embedded
  • Portfolios of student work can demonstrate learning over time
  • Final projects, performances, or presentations for courses or programs
  • Capstone experiences, theses, and dissertations

Indirect measures can be used, but be careful about what they measure

  • Surveys can measure student experience, satisfaction, and their perception of their own learning
  • Post-graduation outcomes can be used as proxy evidence for student learning, but do not actually measure learning

 

* Generously drawn from Middaugh, M. F. (2010). Planning and assessment in higher education: Demonstrating institutional effectiveness. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.