Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes

For many years, the University hasconducted periodic evaluations of academicprograms as a substantive and consistent wayto ensure high-quality academic programs.Traditionally, these evaluations focused oninputs such as the quality of the program faculty,the structure of the curriculum, and theavailability of resources (see the Guidelinesfor Conducting Evaluations of AcademicPrograms13). Until recently, however, theUniversity did not systematically include inthese reviews regular, ongoing assessments ofthe outcomes of the academic programs thatwould allow it to determine, in a consistentway, the extent to which graduates left theinstitution with the skills and knowledge theyneeded to be successful.

The first efforts to use outcomes assessmentwere in the form of indirect evidencesuch as retention rates, graduation rates, andstudent surveys to assess and guide programdevelopment. In the early 2000s, several differentschools and programs began to looksystematically at direct evidence of studentlearning outcomes as part of their evaluationof academic programs. Several of the professionalprograms, such as engineering andmedicine, began to incorporate assessment oflearning outcomes into their comprehensivegraduateand professional programs began routinelycollecting data on student placements; and thecollection of placement data on undergraduateswas strengthened.

By the mid-2000s, the University was usinga variety of assessment activities on its campuses,including collecting both direct and indirect evidenceof student learning. As a natural progressionof University-wide discussions and the realprogress individual schools and campuses hadmade in assessing student learning, in 2006, theCouncil of Deans established guidelines regardinginstitutional expectations for ongoing andregular assessment of student learning. Today, theUniversity has a comprehensive, ongoing practiceof assessing student learning outcomes, whichleads to improved academic programs