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Assessment of Student Learning

Developing a Plan for the Assessment of Student Learning (ASL)  

Define educational/programmatic goals and objectives for the major or program 

A program's instructional goals (targets) and Student Learning Outcomes serve as the foundation for assessment planning. arrows

In most instances, not all of the goals and everything a student learns can be adequately assessed do document achievement. However, assessment plans should be devised to assist faculty in determining whether students are able to demonstrate the most important learning expectations.

Clearly, programmatic learning outcomes  must ultimately be integrated with those of the school/college, which in turn, must be aligned with the institutional learning expectations and mission statement.

Aligning Student Learning Outcomes with University Undergraduate Outcomes

Within an ASL Plan, degree-level student learning outcomes are ultimately connected to the student learning outcomes for the entire university.

Aligning Outcomes

Program Level Student Learning Outcomes

Programs will determine the expected knowledge, skills, and dispositions for students who earned degrees in their programs. Separate student learning outcome statements will need to be developed for various levels of the degree (e.g., Certificate, Associate, Bachelor, Master, and Doctoral levels). See the section on developing measurable student learning outcomes.


Student Services Student Learning Outcomes.

Each student service unit will determine the expected student learning outcomes for students who utilize their services, activities, or educational events. Some of these student learning outcomes will tie directly into the university-wide, college, and/or degree-level student learning outcomes.

Develop Curricular/Assessment Matrix

Once the student learning outcomes have been developed your degree programs, create a separate Matrix listing the degree program learning outcomes by the required major courses. Adapted from the University of Hawaii at Manoa

What is it? Why do it?

Curriculum mapping is a method to align instruction with desired goals and program outcomes. It can also be used to explore what is taught and how. The map or matrix:

    • Documents what is taught and when
    • Reveals gaps in the curriculum
    • Helps design an assessment plan


    • Improves communication among faculty
    • Improves program coherence
    • Increases the likelihood that students achieve program-level outcomes
    • Encourages reflective practice

What does a curriculum map/matrix look like?

It's a table with one column for each learning outcome and one row for each course or required event/experience (or vice versa: each row contains a course and each column lists a learning outcome).


Key: "I"=Introduced; "R"=reinforced and opportunity to practice; "M"=mastery at the senior or exit level; "A"=assessment evidence collected

CoursesIntended Student Learning Outcomes
Apply the scientific methodDevelop laboratory techniquesDiagram and explain major cellular processesAwareness of careers and job opportunities in biological sciences
BIOL 404M, A M, AR
Other: Exit interview   A

EXAMPLE FROM A PHD PROGRAM   (SLO=student learning outcome)

PhD RequirementsSLO 1SLO 2SLO 3SLO 4
Course RequirementsX   
Qualifying Exam XX 
Comprehensive ExamXX X
Final ExaminationXXX 
Seminar Requirements X XX
Designing the Assessment Plan

When developing and implementing outcomes assessment strategies, the purpose should have in mind: to improve, to inform, and/or to document. The results from an assessment process should provide information which can be used to determine whether or not intended outcomes are being achieved and how the programs can be improved. An assessment process should also be designed to inform departmental faculty and other decision-makers about relevant issues that can impact the project and student learning. The intent should be to measure student learning to determine programmatic strengths and expose student learning needs and/or curricular/instructional weaknesses.

 Identify and describe instruments or methods for assessing student achievement at important stages in the program.


Once educational goals and objectives have been identified, assessment methods for collecting student data can be chosen. These methods must always include a direct measure of assessment. Comprehensive assessment strategies frequently require the use of more than one assessment instrument to determine program effectiveness. (See section titled, Measurement).

 Develop a timetable for collecting results of assessments.


In order to meet annual reported expectations and to incorporate assessment into ongoing curricular planning, programs should devise appropriate an timetable for administering assessment and collecting student achievement data. It is most effective to annually assess each outcome, but a program may select to collect student achievement data in a cycle of data collection.

 Determine how the results will be disseminated and used for program improvement.


Assessment results and information should be used in a timely fashion to facilitate continuous programmatic improvements. Faculty may determine that it is necessary to provide curricular/instructional changes to enhance programmatic weaknesses. When results indicate that students are performing consistently with established objectives, faculty may focus assessment initiatives in other areas or extend current practices to impact additional students.

Implement assessment plans and revise as needed.

Once approved by the Program and College Academic Planning Councils and the Office of Assessment, departments should annually implement the assessment plan.

When initial program feedback from assessment reporting becomes available, programs should use the results for programmatic improvement or to revise objectives or plans, if necessary. 

The Office of Assessment believes that if properly developed and implemented, assessment of student learning in all majors can be a beneficial tool for facilitating ongoing curricular dialogue and encouraging constant programmatic improvement throughout campus. With assessment planning located primarily in the departments, faculty exercise their responsibility to devise appropriate methods to measure student academic achievement and program effectiveness. This process gives widespread ownership of assessment planning to faculty and enables them to determine the methods and instruments that are most applicable to their educational objectives and missions.