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 - Assessing Curriculum

Prior to Course - Assess Curriculum


1. Review  the course curriculum and activities


Assess your teaching goals and activities using the online TGI


2.   Develop Student Learning Outcomes

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

4. Review pre-requisites



Assess course comparability and pre-requisites



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


1. Select your favorite course from among the courses you will teach next semester. Review the curriculum and activities and then take the teaching goals inventory. The purpose for is to self assess what you want to do and target in your course, with what you do in your course activities. In the analysis section, you will notice in the results that the goals you rated as "essential" are bolded, so you can compare this to the top 3 goals as rated by other faculty in your field. (The survey takes less than 15 minutes and automatically scores the results and compares it to other faculty responses.) Assessing faculty goals with relation to a specific course is an important step that enables faculty to define student learning outcomes more clearly and provides a tableau to initiate dialogue with other colleagues.

2. You should have developed your SLOs in section 3.  What you assess in a course is dependent upon the SLOs because SLOs direct the type of assessment and the tools you will use. This emphasizes the importance of clearly stated, substantive outcomes, developed through dialogue. The assessment process is initiated by SLOs, so the quality of the SLOs is important. Reread those SLOs using the SLO checklist. Have you discussed them with other faculty in your discipline? Would modify anything? This is a reflective and iterative process; modify things SLOs as improvements become apparent. (This takes about 10 minutes.)

3. Review and compare your SLOs to professional expectations and SLOs from other campuses. Go to the web to check out professional standards or expectations relevant to your course. Do a search on your type of course and select 2 or 3  courses at other institutions to review content and SLOs or course objectives. (While this may seem as though it takes a lot of time, the search and review can be done in 15-20 minutes)

4. Review pre-requisite courses related to your course, if any, and the courses your course feeds. Do the expectations and SLOs align? Are the students entering your course with the requisite knowledge? Do the students that pass your course meet the standards of the next course for entering skills, knowledge, and ability? If your course satisfies the General Education requirements for your institution, do you address those SLOs in your course activities? (More on this in Section 6.)

*Note: I developed my Microbiology SLOs from the original objectives for General Microbiology Courses as defined by the American Society of Microbiology Educator's. As I changed morphed these into outcomes I made them more relevant to my students' needs and our department goals. I also checked with the local CSU Bakersfield Microbiology Professor (because the course transfers) and she asked me to add one.

5. The next step involves mapping out how the SLOs fit with your course work. It aligns expectations with the student activities and your workload. I found that I had some very cool activities, but they did not support my SLOs. I eliminated them regaining some class time and several prep hours. For instance, one activity used an entire lab session of 3 hours and was a lot of prep and clean-up but did not support an SLO. The activity was really fun (a simulated cruise ship with students assigned identities when an epidemic breaks out), the students learned a lot, but the information was not essential to my SLOs. Aligning SLOs and curriculum activities takes a little time, but contributes to a more effective and efficient organization; examples are included on the next page.

Proceed to the Course SLO Matrix

Resources and Links

Classroom assessment Techniques
Angelo & Cross, 1993



Online Teaching Goals Inventory (TGI)

The Teaching Goals Inventory is a widely used diagnostic tool at many teaching and learning centers (including Eastern New Mexico University, Southern Illinois University, University of Iowa, and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) and was identified as an important tool by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.




SLO Checklist


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