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Assessment of Student Learning

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As academics, we are committed to providing the best possible education for our students. As we engage in our teaching, scholarly, and creative activities, it is natural for us to ask questions about the programs that we provide. What are the central concepts and abilities we hope students will take away from our courses? From our majors? From our general education requirements?

Many of us routinely evaluate our success in educating students, either explicitly or implicitly, in terms of their attainment of “bigger picture” levels of learning rather than simply in terms of grades earned in particular courses. Art students are evaluated for signs of progression in portfolios of their creative works, mathematics and foreign language students are examined for their proficiency, departments track the performance of their graduates on professional and GRE examinations, and so on.

At the University of Oregon we believe that the most effective assessment is that which is carried out with the express purpose of informing and improving the academic mission of the University. In accord with this belief, assessment efforts are embedded throughout the curriculum and co-curriculum, thereby avoiding an artificial and inappropriate separation between educational practices and their assessment. Thus, the University does not maintain a separate office of assessment, but instead has convened an Assessment Council, charged with discussion and coordination of the University’s assessment efforts and chaired by the Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs.

To illustrate the range of assessment interpretations and activities being undertaken by each discipline at the University of Oregon, and at other institutions, we include here an inventory of current assessment practices at the UO, as well as a list of resources from other institutions.  We hope these practices may inspire others to recognize innovations in assessment and their value, and to recognize the relationship of their own efforts to the broader assessment endeavor.

Assessment Overview

The process of assessment involves identifying learning objectives and outcomes, and mapping the curriculum to those objectives. Assessment provides timely, informative feedback during instruction and learning.

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities Policy 2.2 Educational Assessment requires that institutions develop and maintain an assessment plan that is responsive to their mission and needs. Apart from this obligation, we want to know that we are doing well for our students. Assessment of student learning is untertaken to assist learning and to measure individual achievement.


Identifying Learning Objectives and Outcomes

1. Formulate statements of intended learning outcomes

These statements describe intentions about what students should know, understand, and be able to do with their knowledge when they graduate.

2. Develop or select assessment measures

We may gather data directly or indirectly to assess whether our intended learning outcomes have been achieved. Direct assessments ask students to demonstrate what they know or can do with their knowledge. These might be projects, papers, case studies, performances, exhibitions, portfolios, interviews or oral exams. Indirect assessments use student self-reporting to assess their perceptions of what they know or can do with their knowledge.

3. Create experiences leading to outcomes

Program curriculum should be a set of interrelated courses and experiences that help students achieve the intended learning outcomes.

4. Discuss and use assessment results to improve learning

Close the loop by using assessment results to make any appropriate changes to enhance the attainment of learning outcomes. 


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