included here on the basis of the committee’s analysis of the research literature and the expertise of individual committee members, and with the expectation that each institution will adapt or modify these approaches according to its individual needs.


One approach to improving student learning is outcome assessment—the process of providing credible evidence that an instructor’s objectives have been obtained. Outcome assessment enables faculty to determine what students know and can do as a result of instruction in a course module, an entire course, or a sequence of courses. This information can be used to indicate to students how successfully they have mastered the course content they are expected to assimilate. It can also be used to provide faculty and academic departments with guidance for improving instruction, course content, and curricular structure. Moreover, faculty and institutions can use secondary analysis of individual outcome assessments to demonstrate to prospective students, parents, college administrators, employers, accreditation bodies, and legislators that a program of study produces competent graduates (Banta, 2000).

Outcome Assessment Activities

Faculty members, both individually and as colleagues examining their department’s education programs, have found the following activities helpful when undertaking outcome assessment:

  • Developing expected student learning outcomes for an individual course of study, including laboratory skills.

  • Determining the point in a student’s education (e.g., courses, laboratories, and internships) at which he/she should develop the specified knowledge and skills.

  • Incorporating the specified learning outcomes in statements of objectives for the appropriate courses and experiences.

  • Selecting or developing appropriate assessment strategies to test student learning of the specified knowledge and skills.

  • Using the results from assessment to provide formative feedback to individual students and to improve curriculum and instruction.

  • Adjusting expected learning outcomes if appropriate and assessing learning again. Such a process can lead to continual improvement of curriculum and instruction.

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