Academic programs demonstrate the use of student learning outcomes assessment results to make improvements at the program and course levels.  Best practices in Program-Level Assessment include:

  • Program describes using direct measures to assess student learning outcomes
  • Program demonstrates how direct measures of student learning align with the student learning outcome
  • Program clearly articulates the link between student learning outcomes assessment results and improvements made to student learning, pedagogy, curriculum, academic programs or assessment processes


Best Practices in Assessment

You may already be an assessment practitioner and have a foundation of assessment if you engage in some of the following:

  • State student learning outcomes that are logically connected to the goals of the program
  • Link student learning outcomes to the broader mission and goals of the relevant school and college
  • Map where in the curriculum (courses/assignments/educational experiences) students have the opportunity to work toward the stated outcomes
  • Develop a method(s) of discovering if students have met the learning outcomes in the appropriate places in the curriculum
  • Analyze the results
  • Communicate the results of the discovery to faculty
  • Use the results to make changes or improvements


Facilitating Discussions on Using Assessment Results

One of the most challenging aspects of assessment is using the data to inform and reflect upon current practice and facilitate program change.  This phase of assessment planning is often referred to as “closing the loop.” Using assessment results is a key element in supporting a program’s continuous, quality improvement processes.  Disseminate and discuss findings among faculty, staff and students (if appropriate), as well as deans, department chairs, college curriculum committees and governing bodies. 

Sample questions to guide the discussion:

  1. What did the assessment results indicate about the level of achievement of the student learning outcomes?
  2. Did the results inform or guide program improvements to curriculum or instruction?
    • If yes, how and when will the improvement or change be implemented?
    • If yes, how will you know if the improvement or change improved student learning?
  3. Did the program use any other data to guide improvement to program services or support?
  4. In what ways are you able to "close the loop" and use data to improve student learning outcomes or the program?

The assessment of student learning is an integral part of a program’s improvement process, but assessing student learning is only one aspect of the process. In an occasional paper published by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), Weigh Pig, Feed Pig, Weigh Pig: A Model for Learning Improvement, researchers propose the use of a new model called PLAIR (Program Learning Assessment, Intervention, and Re-assessment) as an essential method for evidencing improvements in student learning. The model is based on the notion that best practices for assessment involve a three step process: 1) assess, 2) intervene, and 3) re-assess or (metaphorically speaking) weigh pig, feed pig, and weigh pig again.  Click here to read about their model and one method of closing the loop to support continuous improvement practices.