Assessing Student Learning in Higher Education

Author's Home Page 

Section 1

Section 2
Background and Rationale for Assessment

Section 3
Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

Section 4
Assessment Tools and Data

Section 5
Course Assessment
What do you assess?
Assessing Curriculum
Course SLO Matrix
Assessing Pedagogy
Assessing Prior Knowledge
Assessing Metacognition
Assessing Outcomes
Curriculum Review
Sample Course Assessment Reports

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

Course Assessment

The materials in this course are designed to equip faculty to begin doing assessment where they have the most expertise, in their favorite course, and then develop skills for assessment at the program and institutional level. This section addresses assessment in courses; however the initial focus is on your own classes and sections - not the course as described in the curriculum document which may be taught by numerous faculty. The strategy is to develop SLOs and assessment practices in your sections and through dialogue, determine shared SLOs and assessment strategies for the course of record. The core SLOs for courses can then be examined to determine program SLOs. Of course program outcomes may suggest curriculum modifications, which means going back to courses and sections and modifying those SLOs and assessments; the end result is an iterative cycle of improvement.

"All the curriculum reform in the world is ultimately useless if students do not learn what faculty teach. Assessment is a response to the realization thatócurricular reform, new teaching technologies, testing and grading, and ever-higher tuition notwithstandingócollege graduates do not seem to be learning at a level that matches the expectations of employers, parents, or the general public. If assessment is to improve undergraduate education, it must be a faculty-defined, faculty-controlled activity." Wright, 1999











Section SLOs

Section SLOs

           Section   SLOs   

Of course there is concern that in writing individual SLOs, a course or program may become fragmented. However, my colleagues and I have found that individual SLOs overlapped more than we initially assumed between sections. In fact, many faculty wanted to borrow and use other faculty member's SLO statements and assessment strategies. We also found that within programs, course outcomes logically overlapped between courses (e.g. chemistry and biology outcomes). This makes intuitive sense if a program is really going to work. We had anticipated great debates and struggles; instead the dialogue was rich and beneficial.

Most faculty have experience with curriculum and program review; outcomes assessment simply builds on these review processes, while incorporating the shift from what we will do as teachers - to what the students can do as a result of the course. The challenge is to articulate  the desired outcomes and document how well the outcomes were achieved. The primary purpose is improving teaching and learning. At this point take out the course SLOs developed in Section 3 and think about the potential assessment tools discussed in section 4.

The goal is to focus on, and assess, only one or two SLOs per year. At this rate, by the time you reach the six year cycle of accreditation, or your program review cycle, you should have assessed your entire set of SLOs. DO NOT plan to assess every SLO, every semester, or even every year!

Proceed to What do you assess?

Resources and Links

Evaluating learning in individual courses. Wright, B. D. (1999). Linked to California Assessment Institute

Benefits of SLOs and Assessment

Primary trait analysis: Anchoring assessment in the classroom.
Benander, Denton, Page, & Skinner, 2000.

Student learning assessment; Options and resources. MSACHE,2003

Implementing outcomes assessment: Promise and perils. Banta (Ed), 1988


Download Section 5 Program Assessment as a Workbook
(42 pages)













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