Assessing Student Learning in Higher Education

   Section 1

Section 2
  Background  Survey
What is Assessment?
Why Assessment?
Educational Improvement
Formative Feedback
Learning Paradigm
Prompting Learning

Section 3
Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

Section 4
Assessment Tools and Data

Section 5
Course Assessment

Section 6
Program Assessment


Section 7
Closing the Loop

Section 8
Implementing Assessment Training on Campus


Section 9
References & Resources



Using Materials from this Website

Entire Training in a modifiable document


Using Materials from this Website


What is Assessment?

Assessment in higher education involves four important processes:


identifying clear, valid, and appropriate student learning outcomes


collecting evidence that those outcomes are being addressed


dialogue to attain a collective interpretation of the data


using data to improve both teaching and learning

Defining Assessment. The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, ACCJC-WASC, which accredits colleges in California, Hawai'i and the Pacific Region, defines assessment as "the methods that an institution employs to gather evidence and evaluate quality". For more detailed definitions click on the defining assessment link or explore the resources to the right.

Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) are statements which define what a student should be able to do after the completion of a course or program. The SLO defines what will be measured and dictates what assessment tool is appropriate. SLOs represent both the target for our service or teaching and the expectation for student achievement as a result of our effort. Assessment information tells us what students can do and how well they have learned as a result of a course or program. It informs us about the effectiveness of our pedagogy. Assessment data provides a culture of evidence which is the foundation for modification in teaching or service and further revisions to SLOs.

Develop, modify, or review a curriculum, course, program, or service.


Develop or modify  Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)


Design & Measure Student Learning as a result of the Curriculum, Course, or Program


Collect, discuss, and analyze data.


Determine refinements based on outcomes data..

  Closing the Assessment Loop

At first glance, assessing outcomes may appear threatening, because we are not miracle workers: not all students will succeed. Some students do not care and some do not try. However, we know that many students do learn, do care, and do pass our courses and complete programs. These are the students we want to engage most effectively. How can we improve the quality of learning that occurs for the majority of students in our programs and courses? It begins by using evidence (data) to make those improvements.

For me, assessment is the means to improve the curriculum, make my pedagogy more effective, challenge students to take ownership of their own learning, and produce deeper learning. New research in cognitive science (how people know things) is rapidly expanding; assessment has helped me implement some of these principles in my pedagogy. In addition, my field of study, which is Microbiology, is literally exploding with new information. Assessment gives me a tool to incorporate current aspects of the discipline yet keep my teaching focused.

Proceed to Why Assessment?

Resources and Links

What is Accreditation?

California State University Student Learning Outcomes

American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) Assessment Forum

Practical Assessment, Research and Evaluation
PARE Online

National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP)
The Nation's Report Card 

California Assessment Institute


Janet Fulks
Assessing Student Learning in Community Colleges (2004), Bakersfield College