Assessment of Student Learning

Assessing student learning answers two basic questions. What are students learning?  How do we know what they have learned?  Student learning outcomes assessment begins with the assumptions that students perform better when learning is intentional, and when these expectations are clearly articulated. Most assessment models include key steps of articulating learning expectations as student outcomes, gathering evidence about how well students are achieving those outcomes, and using analysis of this evidence to make improvements (Allen, 2004). 

As faculty, most of us are engaged in evaluating student work on a systematic basis. We consider how well students are learning the concepts, theories, and methods from our disciplines based on general trends we think we may see in the grades that we give our students. When the assessment process becomes systematic, it allows us to collect information about the levels of learning students have when they arrive, what they achieve during a semester’s course, and what learning is retained as they progress toward a degree and life after USD. Ultimately, assessment tracks learning as a developmental process, but provides us with a continuous self-reflexive basis for improvement.

Academic departments across the College of Arts and Sciences have developed comprehensive assessment plans that identify outcomes for student learning, summary analyses of student performance, and plans for improvement to achieve short-term and long-term goals. Faculty can access guidelines, templates, and samples to help guide them in this process through their WebCT links on campus or by request sent to their A-Team representative (see below). They should also consult their deparment chairs or refer to the department webpages for a list of program outcomes for program courses; for core courses, consult the list of goals and outcomes on the core curriculum website.

They are also encouraged to attend CEE workshops on assessment in all its phases. As a third alternative, they may also use the Faculty Resources page on this website that provides additional information about the assessment process (e.g., outcomes, curricular maps, assessment plans, rubrics, direct and indirect assessments).