Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes

Professor speaks to his class in language lab, CAS
Professor Scott Hartley, wearing protective glasses, talks with students in the lab, CAS

Introduction and Overview

Assessment of student learning outcomes in Miami University academic degree programs and majors focuses on full-cycle assessment. Rather than viewing assessment as a one-time project to be completed, full-cycle assessment regards assessment as a continuous process, in which the student learning outcomes data are used to redesign programs in order to enhance student learning and development. Engaging in full-cycle assessment helps to satisfy requirements for re-accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission, where it is necessary to show that best practices are used to assess student learning.

Effective assessment answers the question, “How well are our students achieving the outcomes that we have identified for the program?”

High-quality assessment:

  • Uses authentic information in order to improve student learning and development in specified areas.
  • Uses multiple (qualitative and quantitative) strategies for measuring student growth with respect to the specified outcomes.
  • Identifies both strengths and weaknesses in the program.
  • Uses evidence (rather than just assertions) to make changes in programs to continuously improve students’ learning and development.
  • Is systematic, continuous, and ongoing.

Assessment Plans

All degree programs (i.e., all graduate degrees, undergraduate majors, co-majors or “free-standing” certificates whether delivered in online or face-to-face mode) must develop an assessment plan that describes the student learning outcomes to be assessed, the direct and indirect forms of assessment of student learning outcomes, the means of disseminating assessment findings to faculty, and a plan for generating strategies for improvement based on assessment findings. 

Minors as well as certificate programs that are offered only to existing Miami students pursuing other Miami degrees are not required (but are highly encouraged) to develop assessment plans.

An assessment plan should be developed for a degree program, co-major or major in the following instances:

  • When the program is first proposed;
  • When an existing degree program changes the student learning outcomes to be assessed in significant ways (e.g., more than modest wording changes);
  • When the faculty members decide that a better means (or methods) of assessment are needed.

If a degree program is accredited by an external agency (beyond the Higher Learning Commission), and if the accrediting body requires direct assessment of student learning outcomes (assessment of student work), the program’s assessment activity and documentation for that accrediting body will typically meet the assessment requirements for Miami University.

Additionally, academic support units and other co-curricular programs also submit annual assessment reports. 

Assessment Report

All programs must submit an annual assessment report once the assessment plan is in place. An annual assessment report should achieve the following goals:

  • The data and findings in the report are consistent with the overall assessment plan.
  • The work (following the first reporting year) builds upon the findings and improvements made in previous years.

Departments and other units should follow the assessment report templates when creating their reports. There are two report templates: Part I which should be submitted in the first year, and Part II for the second year and then Part I in year 3 and Part II in year 4 and so on. The two templates enable units to complete the full cycle of assessment over the course of a two-year span.

Part I and II assessment reports, in combination, achieve the following:

  • Provide a clear, complete, and well-organized summary of results for all assessment measures.
  • Include supporting documentation (rubrics, surveys, tables, charts) as appropriate.
  • Include conclusions drawn from and supported by assessment data and evidence.
  • Be interpreted in an appropriate scope (e.g. sample size and generalizability are considered).
  • Indicate how the data was shared and discussed with faculty and other appropriate stakeholders.
  • Compare new findings to past trends as appropriate.
  • Provide clarity in how the assessment findings will be used to improve teaching and course design.

Guidelines and templates related to developing assessment plans and reports, sample plans and reports, and numerous additional information about topics including learning goals, curriculum maps, various data collection methods, analyzing and interpreting assessment results, and making the assessment process more manageable are available via a Canvas Learning Management site. Please contact Carolyn Haynes, Senior Associate Provost, for access to the site.