The teacher engages in course/department assessment of student learning.

Every degree program at YSU has a set of student learning outcomes (SLOs) that describe what students should be able to know and do upon completing a program (you can see SLOs by visiting the YSU Course Catalog). Programs then engage in measuring students’ learning related to outcomes. This is frequently referred to as, “learning outcomes assessment” or “program assessment” and is the systematic examination of student learning during a degree program. Its primary goal is the continued improvement of academic quality for the institution. Effective learning outcomes assessment answers three questions:

  • What knowledge, skills, and attitudes will successful students have acquired upon graduation? 
  • How well do students perform relative to these learning outcomes?   
  • How can programs improve to provide a stronger academic experience to students?

When conducted properly, learning outcomes assessment has benefits for the entire institution. It benefits students by ensuring they master the material of their degree program and by providing academic and professional programs that are responsive to both their and society’s needs. It benefits faculty by providing the tools necessary to lead curricular renewal and development. Finally, it benefits the entire institution by giving the institution documented evidence of student learning and achievement, thereby validating that the institution is faithfully meeting its mission and goals.  

Since the 1990s, issues of accountability in higher education have been increasingly common concerns of federal, regional, and state regulators. Often the standards of learning are discussed during hearings on the reaffirmation of the Higher Education Act, but to date, higher education has been able to argue convincingly that self-regulation is the most effective method for ensuring academic quality and accountability. To this goal, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), YSU’s regional accrediting body, has greatly increased its emphasis on learning outcomes assessment.  

While the HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation clearly emphasize the importance of assessment and evaluation, the standards are written with intentional breadth to allow individual member institutions flexibility in their assessment activity. Institutions and programs are simply required to illustrate that they have defined learning outcomes, that student performance is evaluated to measure effectiveness relative to those outcomes, and that there is a focus on ongoing, continuous improvement of curriculum and instruction to support student achievement of learning outcomes. There is also the clear expectation that faculty participate substantially in the assessment process.  

For learning outcomes assessment to be truly effective, it must be a university-wide process. At YSU, there are four primary groups directly involved with assessment activity.    

  1. FACULTY develop learning outcomes, assess student performance, and provide the necessary analysis to understand learning outcomes in their programs.
  2. PROGRAM CHAIRS and/or ASSESSMENT COORDINATORS manage the assessment process within their programs and submit yearly assessment reports that provide evidence of activity. 
  3. The INSTITUTE FOR TEACHING & LEARNING coordinates and supports the overall effort and provides methodological and technical support throughout the process. ITL also posts the student learning outcomes reports to the online archive annually. 
  4. The ASSESSMENT COUNCIL (AC), consisting of representatives from all the colleges and several divisions in the University, reviews and advises assessment activity to ensure that program-level assessment processes are effective and to keep the university in line with the requirements of regional accreditation. The AC, with the assistance of faculty and staff reviewers, conducts its work by reviewing all program student learning assessment reports from which specific recommendations for improvement are generated to be addressed by departments and programs. The program student learning outcome assessment reports, as well as AC findings, are used to inform and provide evidence of continuous improvement.   

While course learning outcomes are a requirement for your syllabus, every department has different processes for the assessment of student learning. These processes align with accreditation criteria, institutional expectations, and college/department expectations. It is important to talk to your Department Chair and/or Program’s Assessment Coordinator to find out more about assessment in your program, department, and college. If you are interested in learning more about the assessment of student learning, check out YSU’s Academic Assessment Handbook.