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Outcomes Assessment

Outcomes Assessment Essentials (specifically written for Bloomsburg University faculty)

Recommended Books & Articles

Assessment Videos

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Goal of this Page

Outcomes assessment can be a contentious topic on university campuses. This page is intended to aid faculty in thinking about outcomes assessment of student learning. If you have materials and web links to share, even if they are discipline specific, please contact the TALE Director so that we can add it to the web page. If you find any of the items listed in the discipline-specific areas inappropriate or inaccurate, please contact the TALE Director. Because web addresses change, please report any link errors to the TALE Director.

Faculty may gather direct (e.g. course-embedded and portfolios) and indirect evidence (e.g. surveys) of student learning; and the evidence can be quantitative and qualitative; indeed, it should be a combination (live by numbers, die by numbers?). Major challenges for faculty include finding the time (1) to understand outcomes assessment, when the literature and political context constantly evolves; (2) to develop meaningful assessment measures; (3) to collect relevant evidence of student learning; and (4) to study the evidence to determine whether or not their programs have any shortcomings, and whether or not it is within their power to address. In the belief that knowledge is power, faculty must make time to educate themselves on outcomes assessment. In an ideal world, outcomes assessment can create opportunities to reflect upon our teaching and student learning. Whether or not the time spent becoming knowledgeable about assessment, training, and gathering and analyzing evidence makes sense in a cost-benefit analysis, especially given our research and teaching responsibilities, is a valid question.

The following articles offer perspective and context to understand the potential benefits and pitfalls of outcomes assessment. Please note, from some disciplinary perspectives, Angelo, Bean and Wiggins' essays will seem outdated, but the challenges and experiences described by the authors remain quite relevant and retain their timeliness. The AAHE "Nine Principles" continues to be referenced by the MSCHE. Suskie's essay warns us not to lose sight of what the goals of assessment are supposed to be: to improve student learning.

American Association of Higher Education. "Nine Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning."

Angelo, Thomas. "Doing Assessment as if Learning Matters Most."

Bean, John. "Transforming WAC through a Discourse-Based Approach to University Outcomes Assessment." (shares the stories of how two departments used outcomes assessment to improve teaching and learning when their campus adopted a Writing-Across-the-Discipline initiative)

Suskie, Linda. "Why are we Assessing? Rethinking Assessment's Purposes."(2010).

Wiggins, Grant. "Getting Started with Assessment."

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Outcomes Assessment Essentials

Outcomes Assessment Essentials No. 1: Articulate Goals, Objectives, Outcomes Identifies methods departments can adopt to develop learning goals; compares learning goal statements to identify better practices; provides a list of "action verbs" to write learning goals; provides hyperlinks to useful websites.

Outcomes Assessment Essentials No. 2: Types of Outcomes Assessment Measures Defines direct and indirect measures; provides a list of both kinds of measures; explains the advantages of course-embedded assessment; explains add-on and value-added assessment methods; identifies "four characteristics of useful assessment"; addresses faculty concerns about assessment; includes hyperlinks.

Outcomes Assessment Essentials No. 3: Assessment Audit Helps programs and departments identify how they may already be doing outcomes assessment; lists a number of questions that departments should ponder when they complete the audit; specifically raises questions for BU faculty to consider and makes references to the General Education Guidelines.

Outcomes Assessment Essentials No 4: Test Blueprinting, A Course-Embedded Tool defines test blueprinting and explains how student scores on individual test items can be used to report outcomes. It explains advantages to learning, teaching, and writing objective exams by demonstrating the link between test items and student learning objectives. Of course, how test blueprinting can be use to report course or program-level outcomes assessment is also explained. In addition, you may find this Test Blueprint Template (Microsoft Word 2010) useful.

Outcomes Assessment Essentials No. 5: Rubrics, A Course-Embedded Tool briefly discusses why accrediting bodies believe grades in isolation cannot be used to report outcomes, but that assignment grades linked to rubrics can be. Briefly explains how rubrics can be advantageous to teaching and learning as well as outcomes assessment. Describes the steps to creating criteria-based rubrics. You may also want to watch the following tutorial, Rubric Basics.

Recommended Books & Articles

American Association of Higher Education. "Nine Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning."

Angelo, Thomas. "Doing Assessment as if Learning Matters Most."

Banta, Trudy. Assessing Student Achievement in General Education (Jossey Bass, 2007).

Banta, Trudy. Hallmarks of Effective Outcomes Assessment (Jossey-Bass, 2004).

Bean, John. "Transforming WAC through a Discourse-Based Approach to University Outcomes Assessment."

Bloom's Taxonomy. See the Teaching Resources page.

Butler, S.M. and N. D. McMunn. A Teacher's Guide to Classroom Assessment: Understanding and Using Assessment to Improve Student Learning (2007).

Comeaux, Patricia, ed. Assessing Online Learning (Jossey-Bass, 2007).

Susan Hatfield, "Assessing Your Program-Level Assessment Plan," IDEA Paper 46

Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Advancing Student Learning: Highlights and Summary of Student Learning Assessment: Options and Resources.

Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Developing Research and Communication Skills: Guidelines for Information Literacy in the Curriculum (2003)

Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Examples of Evidence of Student Learning (compiled by Linda Suskie)

Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Student Learning Assessment: Options and Resources (2007)

Palomba, C. A. and T. W. Banta. Assessment Essentials: Planning, Implementing, and Improving Assessment in Higher Education (Jossey-Bass, 1999).

Stevens, Dannelle D. and Antonia J. Levi. Introduction to Rubrics: An Assessment Tool to Save Grading Time, Convey Effective Feedback and Promote Student Learning. (Stylus, 2005). See also, Rubrics in Teaching Resources.

Suskie, Linda. Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide (Jossey-Bass, 2009).

Suskie, Linda. "Why are we Assessing? Rethinking Assessment's Purposes." Electronically published in Inside Higher Ed, 26 October 2010 and Adapted from Remarks, 2010 Assessment Institute, Indianapolis.

Walvoord, Barbara E. Assessment Clear and Simple: A Practical Guide for Institutions, Departments, and General Education (Jossey-Bass, 2004).

Walvoord, B. E. and V. J. Anderson. Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment. 2nd edition. (Jossey-Bass, 2009).

Wiggins, Grant. "Getting Started with Assessment."

Most of the above book titles are available in the TALE Library and can be loaned out.

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Assessment Videos

"Assessment Quickies: Student Learning Outcomes in Ten Easy Steps." Steps One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, and Ten explains in a series of short YouTube videos how to write Student Learning Outcomes. Produced by California State University at Long Beach is fast-paced and quite informative when it comes to defining Student Learning Outcomes, Curriculum Mapping, Direct and Indirect Measures, Embedded and External, Gathering Data, and What to do with the Results.

Virginia Anderson, Course-Embedded Assessment, Bloomsburg University Workshop, DVD Recording available in TALE Center

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Discipline Specific Resources

Please help TALE provide BU faculty with assistance by suggesting resources to list or providing examples of your department's outcomes assessment plans.


Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Assessment Resource.

Criminal Justice

Bruns, Diane, and Jeff Bruns. "Decoding the Complexities of Assessment Strategies in Criminal Justice Education." Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Assessment Forum (September 2009).


McGlothin, Charles. Assessment of Student Learning: Direct and Indirect Methods. Journal of SH&E Research (American Society of Safety Engineers) Spring 2009, vol. 6, no 1


Council of Writing Program Administrators. Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing. Developed by Council of Writing Program Administrators, National Council of Teachers of English, and National Writing Project. (January 2011)

Geography and Geosciences

Understanding What Our Geoscience Students are Learning: Observing and Assessing


Meo, Susan Leighow. "Portfolio Assessment for History Majors: One Department's Journey." American Historical Association. (February 2002).


American Psychological Association Task Force on the Assessment of Competence in Professional Psychology: Final Report. (October 2006)

Competency Benchmarks. American Psychological Association. (2009)


American Sociological Association. Creating an Effective Assessment Plan for the Sociology Major. (2005)

Spalter-Roth, Roberta, and Janene Scelza, "What's Happening in Your Department with Assessment?" Research and Development Department, American Sociological Association, Research Brief (June 2009)

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