Gathering Evidence of Learning

How do you know if your students are achieving their learning goals? You need to collect evidence—evidence of different kinds and on different levels. It might be useful to keep in mind that gathering evidence of your students’ learning is something you have been doing for most of your academic career. The value of applying an assessment practice to the process is that you now will analyze the evidence you gather based on the learning goals you have articulated. For example, you might give an exam and specifically target three open-ended questions to determine whether your students have achieved learning goals related to the development of critical and analytical skills.

There are basically two kinds of evidence you can collect: direct and indirect.

Indirect methods reveal characteristics associated with learning, but they only imply that learning has occurred. These characteristics may be specific to the students, such as students’ own accounts of their learning, or they may be reflective of the institution as a whole, as in the case of graduation rates.

Direct methods provide concrete evidence of whether a student has command of a specific subject or content area, can perform a certain task, exhibits a particular skill, demonstrates a certain quality in his or her work, or holds a particular value.

The table below provides other examples of measures that are commonly used to provide evidence of student learning at the course level.

Direct Measures Indirect Measures
Course Level
  • Exams and quizzes
  • Research projects
  • Class participation
  • Grades based on criteria related to learning goals Internship performance or field experience
  • Course evaluations
  • Outlines of concepts and skills covered on tests
  • Percent of class time spent in active learning
  • Number of student hours spent on service class work and other course-related activities
  • Grade point averages or course grade distribution

Georgetown faculty have been gathering evidence of their students’ learning for years. The chart included in this PDF represents the kinds of measures and evidence we are currently collecting and analyzing at the course and program levels.

Classroom Assessment Techniques

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are simple, non-graded, in-class activities designed to give you and your students useful feedback on the teaching-learning process as it’s happening. For more information on CATs, please see our CATs page.

Additional CNDLS Assessment Support

CNDLS offers several useful opportunities for gathering student feedback:

Mid-Semester Teaching Feedback sessions provide an opportunity to solicit students’ opinions on a course as it’s still going on, leaving time for you to make changes to the course structure based on their feedback. CNDLS staff members will work with you to formulate questions to ask students, then will administer the in-class session (they take 35 minutes) and meet with you to review the responses and discuss possible changes to the course.

Short surveys, designed in collaboration with CNDLS staff, can collect student opinions about courses or departments/programs. Surveys can be designed to produce either quantitative or qualitative data, and CNDLS will put the survey results online and work with you to review the data.

7 Responses to Gathering Evidence of Learning

  1. Mindy McWilliams says:

    This page shouldn’t have the program level in the title.

  2. Mindy McWilliams says:

    My thinking about this page is that at the course level, there are three or so main concepts wrt assessment. 1) assessing assigned pieces of work or tests (faculty already do this); 2) ungraded classroom assessment (some faculty already do this, but this page should provide more ideas, more resources on that, which you have here); 3) indirect evidence from students through surveys & MSGFs (these are the most common I know of here). I think the focus of the page should be on 2 and 3, and nicely acknowledge that faculty already do 1, but that it is not enough.

  3. Mindy McWilliams says:

    The CAT section is great. I think that we should change the last item, though, to be two specific items: 1) MSGF and explain it and link to the CNDLS site where there is more about how to go about it. 2) Short surveys that can be designed in conjunction with, and put online by CNDLS, or they can do on their own in Google Forms.

    Also, check out the page on the CNDLS site where we talk about these same techniques and see if there is anything to link to or whether stuff is being duplicated, etc. (see and — scroll to bottom of page)

    • Leanne McWatters says:

      I added some info about MSGFs and surveys–as well as to the CNDLS CATs page, but now I feel this page is really long and text-heavy…

  4. Mindy McWilliams says:

    I think that a few specific things should be extracted from the chart. Less than what is currently there. Maybe the chart in its entirety should be on the site and then can be linked to from here?
    I would be happy to look at it with you, Leanne, and we can figure out how best to represent.

  5. Mindy McWilliams says:

    A few things that aren’t addressed here that I always get asked are:
    – how much evidence do I need to collect?
    – do I need to collect it from every student to know something?

Leave a Reply