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 Assessment of Student Learning


Student Learning Assessment Guidelines


The purpose of student learning assessment is improvement of student learning.




Assessment: The ongoing, systematic process of collecting, analyzing, and using information about student learning in order to inform decisions about how to improve learning. (Anderson, Bresciani, & Zelna, 2004; Upcraft & Schuh, 1996; Walvoord, 2004).


Program(s): A general term referring to academic units (department or program), student life programs, and liberal education categories which contribute to student learning at UMD and have an assessment plan.


SLOs: UMD student learning outcomes (


Authentic measures: Assess specific student learning outcomes in the most direct and germain means possible, are based on actual student performance, and are analogous to the kinds of problems faced by professionals in the field. (Welburg, 2008; Wiggins, 1993)


Goals of Assessment   Assessment for student learning improvement at UMD will:

  • Ensure every program has specified learning outcomes and a plan to measure these outcomes.
  • Ensure program outcome alignment with SLOs.
  • Emphasize use of authentic measures of student learning.
  • Develop a shared culture of assessment for student learning.


Cycle of Assessment

Assessment for student learning improvement occurs at the program level and answers the following questions:

  • What do we want our students to learn? (Defining outcomes)
  • What does learning look like? (Articulating measures)
  • How do we know what students have learned? (Analysis)
  • How do we respond to student learning data? (Using results/Making programmatic decisions)

Answers to these questions are communicated within programs and to the Director of Student Learning Assessment (DLSA) through annual assessment report templates.




Assessment for improvement of student learning is a shared goal among UMD community members.


Faculty members will:

  • Clearly state learning outcomes and measurements on course syllabi
  • Contribute student learning data for their programs as determined by those programs.

 Co-curricular staff will:

  • Clearly state learning outcomes for program activities
  • Contribute student learning data for their programs as determined by those programs

 Director of Student Learning Assessment will:

  • Coordinate assessment efforts
  • Assist with integration of programmatic assessment with the University-wide assessment process
  • Serve as a campus-wide resource
  • Summarize assessment results and report as requested by the Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs


Students will participate, to the best of their ability, in the approved learning outcome assessment processes of their academic programs and any co-curricular programs in which they participate. These may include but are not limited to course assignments, surveys, demonstrations, writing samples, focus group discussions. 


Program Assessment Liaisons (PALs) will:

  • Coordinate the assessment processes within the program
  • Act as the communication link between their program and the assessment team
  • Submit annual assessment reports
  • Participate in Peer Reviews
  • Facilitate assessment for student learning conversations in their programs


Administrators of each program (dean, chairperson, or program director) will:

  • Ensure the program has an updated assessment plan which is implemented annually


Members of the Council for Advancement of Student Learning (CASL) are PALs from programs, unless otherwise chosen by the unit.  CASL members advise programs and the Director of Student Learning Assessment regarding assessment practices and activities on campus and work under the charge:

CASL will:

  • Advise on the continuous development of the UMD assessment process.
  • Discuss, recommend and plan professional development opportunities to positively affect student learning through assessment activities.
  • Serve as a resource and communicate student learning assessment activities across campus.
  • Act as an assessment coach to people who are actively involved in assessment in academic and co-curricular units, connect them with resources that are available for assessment, and help units maximize the use of shared tools and resources.
  • Participate and facilitate interdisciplinary groups to review student learning assessment reports, data and activities.
  • Review and recommend initial, continuing, or permanent funding for current and proposed assessment activities.
  • Communicate regularly with EPC, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Life, and campus as a whole.


Use of Assessment Results

Detailed assessment results are used at the program level to make decisions intended to improve student learning. Programs may use assessment results to inform self-studies as part of program or accreditation review, to document need for curricular revisions, or to obtain new resources.  


Annual reports from programs are aggregated by the Director of Student Learning Assessment to demonstrate a campus commitment to student learning, provide an overall accounting of evidence of student learning, and recommend campus resource allocations suggested by assessment results.  The aggregate report is submitted to EVCAA and the Educational Policy Committee, and is posted for campus-wide information. 


For context related to the development of an assessment process on campus:



In 2008, the University of Minnesota Duluth made a commitment to the development of an institution-wide assessment system focused on the improvement of student learning.  The Higher Learning Commission Academy for the Assessment of Student Learning accepted a proposal for membership in the Academy and for a project titled:  “Design and implementation of a comprehensive campus assessment system.”  The project was described as follows:


This project will lay out a timeline and structure for all departments and functional areas to develop assessment plans for individual programs and units. The project is comprehensive in that it begins with writing outcomes and goes through documentation of feedback. An important part of the project is effective faculty and staff development around best practices for measuring outcomes. The timeline establishes target dates for each step of the process, but the goal of communication and training will be to help those programs that have some assessment practices in place to move forward along the spectrum of activities at a faster pace. The intent to align program objectives with institutional outcomes will be emphasized so that assessment of institutional outcomes will evolve alongside the programs. Underlying the work is a commitment to foster a culture change at the institution, focusing on student learning.


An associate vice chancellor for academic administration was assigned responsibility for implementation of the project.  An advisory group was formed and named the Council for Advancement of Student Learning (CASL).  Project activities were documented on web pages:


Guiding Theory and Practices


In February, 2009, Barbara Walvoord presented two days of assessment training for the campus.  Her definition of assessment represents the foundational thinking behind development of the UMD assessment system.  “Assessment of student learning can be defined as the systematic collection of information about student learning, using the time, knowledge, expertise, and resources available, in order to inform decisions about how to improve learning.”  (Barbara E. Walvoord, Assessment Clear and Simple, (2004).  San Francisco, CA: John Wiley and Sons, p. 2.)


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Last modified on 03/10/16 05:38 PM
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