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Assessment Methods

Assessment methods are how we determine the extent to which students have achieved the learning outcomes. In general there are two components to consider: 1) the artifacts of student learning, and 2) the evaluation process. This is step 3 in the assessment cycle: Assess achievement of outcomes. 

Artifacts of Student Learning

As part of assessment planning and reporting, program faculty should identify the student work, performance, or data (i.e., artifacts) they will use to determine the extent to which students are achieving the learning outcomes.

Direct Evidence of Student Learning

Artifacts that provide direct evidence of student learning consist of two primary categories: observation and work product. The former involves the student being present, whereas the latter is a product of student work and does not require the student to be present. Here are some examples of each:

  • Observation artifacts: performances, presentations, debates, group discussions.
  • Work product artifacts: portfolios, research papers, exams/tests/quizzes, standardized tests of knowledge, reflection papers, lab reports, discussion board threads, art projects, conference posters.

Indirect Evidence of Student Learning 

In addition to the sources of direct evidence, there are also other types of data that can indirectly serve as evidence of student learning. While data of this nature can be useful, it is important to note that direct evidence is needed to fully assess student learning outcomes. Examples of indirect evidence include:

  • Student and alumni perceptions of learning
  • Student, alumni, and employer satisfaction with learning
  • Retention and graduation rates
  • Job placement and graduate school acceptance rates

Evaluation Process

The process for assessing student learning should involve clear and explicit standards for performance on pre-determined dimensions of the learning outcome, often accomplished through the development and use of a rubric. For example, assessment of the learning outcome “Students in Research Methods will be able to document sources in the text and the corresponding reference list.” could be assessed by randomly selecting a sample of papers from the course and having the 3-person faculty assessment committee apply a rubric to determine the extent to which students are actually able to document sources. It is important to note that stand-alone grades, without thorough scoring criteria, are not considered a direct method of assessment due to the multiple factors that contribute to the assignment of grades.

Assessment plans should document the specific process that the program will undertake to evaluate the artifacts of student learning. The information provided should be clear enough that someone outside the program could replicate the process based on the details shared in the plan. For example:

  • Who is collecting the artifacts? When and how?
  • Who is evaluating the artifacts? When and how?
  • What tools (e.g., rubrics) are being used in the artifact evaluation process? How and when were the tools developed?
  • How do the evaluation tools connect to or operationalize the learning outcomes?


Components of a VALUE Rubric

VALUE Rubrics

Best Practices for Designing Effective Rubrics (Arizona State University webpage)

Creating and Using Rubrics (University of Hawaii at Manoa webpage)

The Role of Rubrics in Advancing and Assessment Student Learning (PDF Article)

Using Rubrics to Assess Student Learning Outcomes at the Program Level (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill PDF Guide)

Introduction to Rubrics: An Assessment Tool to Save Grading Time, Convey Effective Feedback, and Promote Student Learning by Stevens and Levi 2005 (Email Marissa about acquiring a copy of this book)

Please contact Marissa Cope, assessment director, at with questions or support for developing or revising assessment methods, including rubric development.