AssesSment in academic programs

Assessing what students know and can do when they complete their degrees at PennWest California gives program faculty valuable information that they can use to improve the curriculum, courses, and other learning activities. Faculty develop assessment plans to measure student learning at the program level. The plans contain the program’s student learning outcomes, the measures to be used to assess whether students have achieved these outcomes, and criteria for determining success. Each year, faculty collect and analyze data on student learning and prepare a report that describes their findings and how they have used the results to improve their programs.

This site provides guidelines and resources for faculty who are engaged in academic assessment planning and reporting. If you have questions or can’t find what you are looking for, please contact Alice Jenkins, Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment at

Getting Started with Annual Assessment PPT Presentation

Assessment Templates and Examples

Assessing General Education


Getting Started with Assessment


Assessment of student learning outcomes is the systematic gathering of information about student learning and the factors that affect learning, undertaken with the resources, time, and expertise available, for the purpose of improving the learning.

Academic departments often address Program Outcomes in their assessment plans in addition to student learning outcomes. These outcomes may describe  goals for the department, such as graduation rates, persistence, faculty resources, placement rates, presentations or publications by students and/or faculty, or improvements identified through the Program Review process.

A student learning outcome is a clear statement in specific and measurable terms of what a student will know or be able to do as the result of having successfully completed a program or course of study. Educational outcomes declare the knowledge, skills, and dispositions/attitudes expected of graduates from the program and answer the following questions:

  • What does the student know (knowledge)?
  • What can the student do (skills)?
  • What does the student care about (dispositions/attitudes)?

Academic department often address program outcomes in the assessment plans in addition to student learning outcomes. These outcomes may describe other measure of student success, such as graduation rates, job placement rates, the number of presentations or papers by students, participation in professional development, or the examination of the program be external reviewers or accreditation bodies.

The assessment measures should focus primarily on direct evidence of student learning that is free from opinion, tangible, and compelling evidence of exactly what students have and have not learned. Examples of objective measurements may be standardized tests, portfolio evaluations, and course assignments.

Indirect assessments consists of proxy signs that students are probably learning and is less clear and convincing. Subjective measures are based on the opinions of the learner such as alumni surveys and exit interviews. These measures can be helpful in understanding how students perceive they have benefited from instruction.

Direct Measures


  •  Comprehensive examinations
  • Performance demonstration for graduating seniors
  • Written proficiency exams
  • National Major Field Achievement Tests
  • Graduate Record Exams
  • Certification examination, licensure examinations
  • Locally developed pre- and post- tests
  • Senior thesis / major project
  • Portfolio evaluation
  • Reflective journals
  • Capstone courses assessments
  • Internship evaluations
  • Grading with scoring rubrics
  • Graduate school acceptance rates 

A useful link:

Indirect Measures


  • Surveys of graduating seniors
  • Exit interviews of graduating students
  • Alumni Surveys
  • Focus group discussions
  • Employer Surveys
  • Internship Supervisor Surveys

A useful link:


A Guide for Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Planning and Reporting can be found here.

How it works - The process

The academic assessment process involves

  • Establishing student learning outcomes
  • Measuring and analyzing student achievement of the outcomes aggregated across the program
  • Reviewing findings and creating action plans to improve curricula or support services
  • Implementing improvements and assessing effectiveness of changes on student outcomes 

Assessment Loop diagram.

The Annual Assessment Plan:

At the beginning of the fiscal year, the unit members decide and document what outcomes and assessment methods will be used. Each plan contains

  • the Program’s Mission Statement
  • specific program-level student learning outcomes to be assessed during the next academic year (no more than 2-5 per unit/department).
  • criterion for Success (e.g. 80% of students graduates will successfully apply…) for each outcome
  • assessment measure for each outcome (e.g. survey, rubric, written records, archival data). Results will be used to make program or curricular changes for improvement of student learning 

The Annual Results Report:

After reviewing the assessment data, unit members meet to decide on plans for the next year based on the outcomes of the previous year and the Strategic Plan. The Results report contains

  • brief results of each method and the extent to which the outcome or goal was achieved
  • a summary or conclusions regarding strengths or opportunities for improvement based on the results
  • actions that will be taken as a result of the data

The assessment process involves the following steps:

  1. Developing a unit level mission statement that ensures alignment with the University’s mission and strategic goals (sample mission statements from other universities)
  2. Setting intended student learning outcomes (sample outcomes by discipline from other universities)
  3. Selecting and developing assessment  measures (measurements identified in assessment plans at other universities)
  4. Identifying at what level (criteria) the goal is to be achieved (expected results) (sample criteria)
  5. Collecting and analyzing the data about how well students are achieving the outcome(s) (excerpts of assessment findings from assessment reports)
  6. Using the result for improvement (closing the loop) (excerpts from “use of results” from university assessment reports)
  7. Follow-up process on the implementation and impact of prior-year action plans (follow-ups from other universities)

Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Templates and Examples

Assessment of program outcomes is a two-step process – the plan and the results. Programs will be asked to submit two reports.  The Plan Report (due in the fall) details the plan of action for assessing program and student-learning outcomes. Due in the spring, the Results Report will document the results of assessing  outcomes – what was found and what program faculty or staff are going to do in response to the results to improve their program.

Academic Assessment Plan Templates and Examples

Assessment Plan Report: Instructions and Examples

Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Plan Report Template

Examples of Completed Assessment Plan Reports

Academic Assessment Results Report Templates and Examples

Assessment Results Report Instructions and Examples

Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Results Report Template

Examples of Completed Assessment Results Report