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 Pedagogy

The challenge is measuring the gap between

the planned curriculum,

the taught curriculum

and the learned curriculum

(Peter Ewell).

This gets back to the shift in perspective from what faculty are teaching, to what students are learning.

One way to assess the taught curriculum is to get regular anonymous feedback from students. It will come as no surprise to faculty that students often do not GET what we think we have GIVEN. Cross and Angelo developed a resource text called Classroom Assessment Techniques that describes the use of learner-centered, flexible assessments to monitor the information students are processing in class. I like to look at it as analogous to taking a pulse or blood pressure on a patient. Everything may look fine, but you need to get a reading on the vital signs in order to operate on evidence and not just intuition.

Student feedback using classroom assessment techniques provides important data to effectively modify teaching strategies and there is evidence that it enhances student engagement.  Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are faculty-developed tools directed at assessing classroom strategies and activities from the student's perspective. CATs are short anonymous surveys embedded in everyday course activities. Acknowledging the effectiveness of CATs, the National Institute of Science Education sponsored a website that provides a library of CATs, organized by goals and topics, that can be downloaded and modified for use in any class. The website, Field-tested Learning Assessment Guide (FLAG) is linked in the resource section along with Dr. Douglas Eder's website at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, that has a variety of useful examples.

This type of assessment in a course is for the faculty member's own use. It would not be necessary to record the data, do a statistical analysis, or officially report details on the student feedback. However, four things are useful when assessing pedagogy:

1. Create a folder and use a notebook or file for storing and summarizing your written observations of the feedback.

2. Review the responses as soon as possible- right after class is best. Write down your overall impression of the feedback , this usually only takes 10-15 minutes.

3. Think about how you might use the feedback to modify teaching strategies and write down any ideas or plans with a short rationale.

4. Talk to colleagues about the feedback and reflect on any ideas they may suggest. Take a moment to add these thoughts to your other feedback summary.

Sample CATs from Classroom Assessment Techniques by Angelo and Cross

Muddiest Point - In this assessment technique a class or topic session is concluded by handing out an index card. Students are asked to anonymously write down the muddiest point in the class that day. The cards are collected and the faculty member reviews them immediately after class. Topics that occur frequently are then reviewed at the onset of the next class meeting.

Minute Paper - Here the students anonymously respond to two questions: 1) What is the most important thing you learned today?
2) What questions remain uppermost in your mind as we conclude the class session?

Application Cards - This assessment asks students to write down a practical application of the material they learned in the everyday world. It forces students to transfer their new knowledge into a useful form and helps the faculty member see how the students are integrating class concepts.

There are many other examples at the links in the resource section.

Proceed to Assessing Prior Knowledge

Resources and Links


Pedagogy- the art and science of teaching and learning

Classroom Assessment Techniques
Angelo & Cross, 1993


Sample CATs

Eder, D. J. (2003). Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

Field-Tested Learning Assessment Guide.
Guide for Math, Science and Technology Instructors 













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