Gathering Evidence of Student Learning

As with course-level assessment, determining whether your students have achieved program goals requires collecting evidence of learning. There are basically two kinds of evidence you can collect: direct and indirect. Direct evidence includes measures that are based on student work, such as exams, papers, and presentations. Indirect evidence, such as surveys and focus groups, reveals characteristics associated with learning but only implies that learning has occurred.

Since program-level goals apply to what students should have learned from completing a sequence of courses, as opposed to just one course, to assess a program-level goal, you will need to collect evidence that demonstrates a culmination of knowledge either from a series of courses and other benchmarks or from integrative courses, i.e., capstone. Here are a few examples of efforts to collect such data:

  • Designing a capstone-course assignment for outgoing seniors around specific department/program goals, generating data that enable faculty and students to reflect. The department/program goal could be, for example, to demonstrate one’s ability to apply sociological theory to practice.
  • Tailoring benchmark exams (GREs, etc.) to better align with department/program goals. Exams can be administered at multiple points during a student’s academic career to assess learning gains.

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

Direct Measures Indirect Measures
Program Level
  • Capstone projects, senior theses, exhibits, or performances
  • Faculty evaluation of collections of student work (e.g., ePortfolios)
  • Pass rates of scores on licensure, certification, or subject area tests
  • Student publications or conference presentations
  • Focus group interviews
  • Program-focused cuts of institutional survey data
  • Department/program review data
  • Job/grad school placement rates
  • Employer/alumni/ student perception surveys
  • Proportion of upper-level courses compared to programs elsewhere

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.

Using ePortfolios to Gather Evidence about Department/Program Goals

3 Responses to Gathering Evidence of Student Learning

  1. Mindy McWilliams says:

    Suggested tweak/edits to 2nd par:
    Since program-level goals apply to what students should have learned from completing a sequence of courses, as opposed to just one course, to assess a program-level goal, you will need to collect evidence across courses. Here are a few examples of efforts to collect such data:

    [from above] “will need to collect evidence across courses” doesn’t seem to me to be quite the right wording. The example of a capstone is still from a single course. And the GRE isn’t from any course at all. I can’t come up with the right wording right now, but “across courses” makes it sound like you have to collect data from many different courses and put it together, but I think the concept is more like collecting data that shows that students have somehow put it all together or achieved something by the end of a program.

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