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

Section 6
Program Assessment


Section 7
Closing the Loop
Recording Data
Using Data
Budgeting, Planning, and Improving
Principles of  Good Assessment

Section 8
Implementing Assessment Training on Campus


Section 9
References & Resources



Using Materials from this Website

Using Assessment Data

Many of the concerns repeatedly voiced by faculty have to do with the use of assessment data. Clearly delineating where the data goes and who is in charge of data can rectify many of these concerns. Aggregating data and reports at the program level provides this kind of protection. Good assessment is dependent upon mutual respect and collegial partnership amongst all institutional constituents.

Widespread faculty apprehension about loss of academic freedom was principally related to external agencies and controls that imposed standardized testing similar to that seen in K-12 schools. Faculty-driven course and program assessment has the potential to prevent abuses while providing a cadre of engaged and active discipline experts. “As the constituency most vitally involved in guiding the teaching/learning process, the faculty brings the most relevant experience, and often the keenest professional expertise, to the outcomes assessment task” (Volkwein, 2003, p. 9).

The use of assessment data in personnel evaluations is an issue that should be discussed. ACCJC-WASC Standard III states, “Faculty and others directly responsible for student progress toward achieving stated learning outcomes, have as a component of their evaluation, effectiveness in producing those learning outcomes” (ACCJC-WASC, 2002, p. 15). This standard addresses the use of assessment data for ALL employees directly associated with student progress and includes evidence of improvement, as well as, data indicating need for improvement.

Faculty were concerned that this linkage would create pressures leading to grade inflation, reduction of course rigor and academic standards (Collins, 2002; Simpson & Adams, 2002). In response to significant faculty opposition, some institutions created policies to prohibit the use of assessment data in faculty evaluations. On the other hand, there are some scholars that argue for the linkage of faculty evaluation in order to provide incentive for improvement. Some have suggested using the self-evaluation section of the evaluation process as the component to meet this standard. What ever the decision, this is an area that requires discussion to ensure that the loop is closed.

Who maps out where the assessment data will go and who is responsible for it?

Have you had discussions about the use of assessment data on your campus?

It is a good practice to discuss these issues with the relevant stakeholders and create some ground rules that are appropriate for your institutional culture. 

Proceed to Budgeting, Planning, and Improving

Resources and Links

Academic Senate Resolution on Privacy and Assessment

Assessment essentials: Planning, implementing, and improving assessment in higher education. Palomba & Banta, 1999.

Want Campus Buy-in for Your Assessment Efforts? Rodrigues, 2002.



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