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 MeasuresIndirect Measures
Program LevelCapstone 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