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

Assessment and the Learning Paradigm

Assessment represents a vehicle for shifting an institutional culture to the learning paradigm.

This is described by Barr and Tagg (1995) in the following excerpt From Teaching to Learning: A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education.

"Subtly but profoundly we are shifting to a new paradigm: A college is an institution that exists to produce learning. This shift changes everything. It is both needed and wanted. We call the traditional, dominant paradigm the Instruction Paradigm. Under this paradigm colleges have created complex structures to provide for the activity of teaching conceived primarily as delivering 50-minute lectures-the mission of a college is to deliver instruction. Now, however, we are beginning to recognize that our dominant paradigm mistakes a means for an end. It takes the means or method-called "instruction" or "teaching"- and makes it the college's end or purpose. To say that the purpose of colleges is to provide instruction is like saying that General Motors' business is to operate assembly lines or that the purpose of medical care is to fill hospital beds. We now see that our mission is not instruction but rather that of producing learning with every student by whatever means work best. The shift to a "Learning Paradigm" liberates institutions from a set of difficult constraints." (1995, p.13)

Simply incorporating new programs and activities into traditional institutions falls far short of the new paradigm. O達anion (1997b) defined six key principles upon which a learning college is based these included:


institutional commitment to substantive change in the learners,


learner accountability as full partners


institutional dedication to diverse learning options


student participation in collaborative learning


re-defining of faculty roles and staff roles according to learning needs and


evidence of success documented by learning outcomes.

Assessment provides both the data to validate and the feedback to transform into a learning-centered institution.

Proceed to Assessment for Learning Part 4

Resources and Links

A Learning College For The 21st Century: (American Council on Education Oryx Press Series on Higher Education)




A Learning College for the 21st Century. O達anion (1997a)

Creating More Learning-Centered Community Colleges.
O達anion (1997b)

The Learning College: Both Learner and Learning Centered. O達anion (1999)

A Paradigm Shift from Instruction to Learning.
Schuyler ERIC Document No. ED414961

Assessment crises: The absence of assessment for learning. Stiggins (2002).

The Learning Decade
Flynn (2003)


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