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

Assessment Issues for Faculty, Administrators, and Students

The table below summarizes typical issues which should be discussed openly; they are common to institutions across the US and ignoring them will simply impede the ability to close the loop. Some of the problems can be addressed by looking at the benefits faculty have reported in the next table.

Potential Problems, Roadblocks, and Difficulties with Assessment





Nature of Problem








Increased workload

Increased workload

Time to take assessments


Time to develop outcomes, select tools, interpret data.

Time to coordinate  assessment processes and data usage

Extent of sampling or population assessment collection


Evaluating and reporting data

Organizing and reporting data




Adequate training to evaluate and report data.
Training effectiveness, relevance, and faculty engagement

Aligned with accreditation standards and other external requirements.

Loss of faculty contact time in office hours or courses.


Concern over who is in control of training and assessment

Consistent with administrative and institutional vision



Time and pay for training

Time and pay for training




Time and effort for collaborative resolutions

Time and effort for collaborative resolutions.

Use of data e.g. high stakes or grading inferences



To courses and programs for labor and materials

Institution-wide costs in labor and materials

Transferred costs?

Losses in service?


Unfunded by institution

Unfunded by agencies or states


Negative Attitudes





Ineffective due to potential ineffability of important outcomes

Potential ineffability of important outcomes or inability to determine long term measures

Potentially of no individual value to the student producing marginal effort


Redundant to grading, course goals, and objectives

External mandate







Potential misuse of data for evaluation

Use of data for evaluation

Fear of abuse of data privacy issues


Potential misuse of data to curtail programs



Bureaucratic intrusion

Loss of class and program autonomy

Loss of institutional autonomy







Reducing vital concepts to a few measurable factors

Potential threat to individual institutional values and missions

May reduce choices and narrow focus


Teaching to the test

 Reducing comprehensive focus to a few measurable outcomes


Academic freedom

Threatening to academic freedom

Responsive to academic freedom but providing continuity




Faculty Comments on the Benefits of SLOs and Assessment

Faculty interaction

Promotes good discussion between faculty.

Makes lunchroom conversations healthier.

Prevents departmental favoritism because it is based on performance.

Stimulates productive departmental conversations.

Enhances interdisciplinary cooperation.

Curriculum and program review

Results in useful discussions concerning sequential courses.

Produces more rigorous curriculum review with a focus on outcomes.

Provides a holistic picture of the course from beginning to end.

Focuses syllabi, daily activities, and assessments on a single target- SLOs.


Teaching practices

Helps to improve teaching practices.

Formalizes thoughts about courses.

Focuses teaching practices.

Validates both what we are teaching and why we are teaching it.



Helps students to be more successful.

Informs students of the expectations up front.

Directs our teaching practices to be more student/learning-centered.

Gives students more responsibility.

Course standards

Produces consistency of standards between sections.

Maintains high standards.



Provides evidence to substantiate costs that contribute to learning.


  Proceed to Principles of  Good Assessment

Resources and Links

Potential Problems, Roadblocks, and Difficulties Word Document



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