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

Section 6
Program Assessment
Setting the Stage
Defining Programs
Program SLOs
General Education Programs
Program Assessment Tools
Homegrown Program Assessment Tools
Program/Course Matrix
Program Review and Program Assessment
Sample Program Assessment Reports


Section 7
Closing the Loop

Section 8
Implementing Assessment Training on Campus


Section 9
References & Resources



Using Materials from this Website

Program Assessment

This section will explore program assessment by beginning with a scenario to gain perspective when writing program SLOs, then discussing an important fundamental question concerning defining and designing programs. The faculty role in General Education assessment, which may represent either program or institutional level assessment (depending upon the institutional culture) will also be explored in some detail. This section of training will conclude with sample program assessment tools and reports, as well as the role of program review in assessment.

There are many options available for program assessment. Some institutions have created assessment days or weeks for program and institutional assessment, others have embedded common questions or an essay into regular course exams and finals. The tools and techniques are similar to course assessment, but require a slightly broader perspective.

After completing this section the participants should be able to:

Create a set of DRAFT SLOs for a program through faculty dialogue.

Plan for and implement assessment for one or two program SLOs each year.  

Course Assessment



Linkage of course outcomes to program and institutional level outcomes is essential. The philosophy behind this website is based upon the concept that training faculty to articulate outcomes and develop assessment practices in their favorite courses will equip them to apply that expertise at program and institutional level assessment.

Program assessment is a more comprehensive endeavor and must be clearly focused on learning to produce improvement, rather than a report of the program details. We will begin this section by looking at things from a different and broader perspective and then working through some of the details of program assessment in community colleges.

Let's start with a brief look at learning outcomes for a program that is not part of a community college, but is well defined, and has articulated both a mission and an outcome. The program is a grant-funded women and children's shelter called The Respite. Funding is dependent upon the annual report of the program outcomes. (This scenario was developed with Lynn Krausse, a BC business professor and CPA, based upon experiences consulting for non-profit organizations.)

Scenario - Respite Women and Children’s Shelter

If all the women victimized by domestic violence in a given year joined hands, the line would stretch from New York to beyond Los Angeles.
(Women's Shelter Inc. statistics for 2001)

The Respite Women and Children's Shelter is a program that provides shelter and protection for women and children that are caught in domestic violence. In addition to shelter, there are hotlines, counseling and support groups, and a program to assist women to live independently and secure jobs. The shelter is supported by outside donations and grants. In order to renew the major grant to fund the program, a report must be submitted that assesses how well the shelter has met its purported outcomes.

The volunteers at the shelter have had years of experience, are fully aware of, and most concerned about changing the cycle of violence and abuse. They have vision beyond just providing refuge and protection. The mission statement for the shelter reads:

To provide safety and shelter to women and children who are victims of domestic violence through crisis intervention, therapeutics, and education and to reduce societal violence against women and children.

An overarching outcome that they have defined reads - Following the services and therapeutics of the women's shelter, battered women will make a choice to leave their violent relationships as a major strategy to protect themselves and their children.

How would you critique this outcome in relation to the shelter's mission?
Consider the SLO checklist and evaluate the Outcome as it is written.

Take a moment and write down your thoughts.

Proceed to Program Assessment Setting the Stage

Resources and Links

Section 6
Download this section as a workbook

Section 8 of this course describes the importance of conducting a campus assessment audit to build on what you are already doing.






Assessing Academic Programs by Allen, 2004























SLO checklist

Word Document for Printing SLO Checklist



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