Assessing Student Learning in Higher Education

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 - What do you assess?

"This is a riddle: What assessment method has nearly universal faculty participation, enjoys superb student participation, is never accused of violating academic freedom, provides detailed diagnostic assessment of student learning, is tightly linked to teaching objectives, has a tight feedback loop into classroom learning and into teacher planning, and is cheap to implement? Answer: Grading, when it is well done." Walvoord & Anderson, 1995
(There are several excellent books and articles that specifically address course assessment as noted in the resource section.)

To improve learning  requires more than just assessing the product or learning outcomes. Learning is the consequence of numerous factors, including: pedagogy, curriculum, student metacognition, prior learning and misconceptions. Since this plan is focused on improvement and not just accountability, these areas are also assessed to improve outcomes. The course assessment scheme in these materials involves the use of simple assessment tools in four major areas:






Student Prior Knowledge and Misconceptions


Student Metacognition (thinking about how you learn)


Student Learning Outcomes

The course assessment strategy used in this material is faculty-led and embedded in class activities. When assessing curriculum, pedagogy, metacognition, prior knowledge and misconceptions, short and simple tools called Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are very useful. CATs were developed by Angelo and Cross and have been used successfully to improve many aspects of teaching and learning. There will be more describing these techniques in the following sections, including links to websites and samples.

In the strategies used in this material, assessment of course student learning outcomes (SLOs) has been incorporated into the grading process using PTA and rubrics to create validated assessment tools. (Refer to Section 4 for a review of PTA and rubrics.)

The following flowchart represents an overview of this process. To print the flowchart use the link at the right.

Assess comparability of course work and pre-requisite establishment  

6.     Introduction and course establishment


Assess entering knowledge & relevant misconceptions


5.    Align Course Activities with SLOs. Create a matrix of the SLOs and course activities; eliminate those things that donít support the outcomes


Assess activities using Primary Trait Analysis and scoring rubrics for course assignments & exams


Final course assessment and report summarizing modifications to course, SLOs, etc


2.    Develop Student Learning Outcomes

3.    Check SLOs with faculty, other schools, and professional expectations

4.    Review pre-requisites



8. Pedagogy

9. Student metacognition

Use CATs to assess effectiveness of pedagogy

Use CATs and reflective papers to have student assess their own learning

Prior to Course - Assess Curriculum

Beginning of Academic Term - Assess Previous Knowledge

Throughout Term - Formative Outcomes Assessment, Pedagogy, and Metacognition

7. Teaching and learning  styles

Assess learning styles

Review teaching goals

10.Terminal assessment using graded activities

11.Summary assessment of outcomes and modifications


End of Term

Generalized Classroom Assessment Plan


Assess your teaching goals and activities using the online TGI


1. Review  the course curriculum and activities


Proceed to Guidelines & Tools

Resources and Links

An Assessment Riddle: Guidelines from Research and Practice. Walvoord, & Anderson, 1995.

Learner-centered assessment on college campuses: Shifting the focus from teaching to learning.
Huba & Freed,2000

The art and science of classroom assessment: The missing part of pedagogy. Brookhart,1999

Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment.
Walvoord &  Anderson, 1998.

Assessment that promotes learning. Lowe,1994.

Classroom Assessment Techniques
Angelo & Cross, 1993

Review PTA

Review Rubrics

Generalized Classroom Assessment Plan Flow Chart as a one page document

Online Teaching Goals Inventory (TGI)


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