Putting It Into Practice

The best assessment is derived from faculty members’ questions about their own teaching experience. Are students meeting your expectations? How well are they mastering a complex concept? Are they developing the “habits of mind” appropriate for your discipline? How well does your teaching approach facilitate learning? Can students demonstrate the skills you have identified as most important? Are they able to apply what they have learned to a novel or more complex problem?

These questions are just a few examples of the kinds of things you may ask yourself when you reflect upon your teaching. Because teaching and learning occurs in a social context, many aspects change over time: your teaching approach may evolve with experience, knowledge in the discipline may change, students’ attitudes or expectations change, new technologies emerge that improve communication of complex subjects or allow new forms of interaction, etc. Therefore, assessing effectiveness needs to be continuous, and integrated into your teaching practice as a continual work-in-progress.

It may be helpful to think of assessment as a four-step cycle:

Assessment Cycle: Establish learning goals, provide learning opportunities, assess student learning, and use the results.

Where to Begin?

  1. Start with clear statements of your most important goals. (What key things will students be able to say, think, or do after completing your course?)
  2. Provide opportunities for students to learn.
  3. Plan your assessments carefully so that they assess the goals you have articulated. (Are students given the opportunity to develop those attributes, and do the course assignments and exams assess them?)
  4. Define clear, appropriate standards for student performance. (What constitutes exemplary, adequate, and poor work?)

Examples from Different Disciplines

Applied Economics and Management

This example illustrates comprehensive assessment plans for multiple disciplines that link learning goals, objectives, assessment tools, and a plan for using the results:


The link below presents an overview of an assessment plan in Engineering, including student performance indicators and methods of assessment from the University of Nevada, Reno:

Fine and Performing Arts

The examples below include an assessment plan for the Visual and Performing Arts at SUNY Fredonia and the Standards and Guidelines of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). They illustrate how levels of expectations can be linked to learning goals and assessment plans for students’ performance-based work:


The following links are examples of assessment plans for Romance Languages, Political Science, and Economics. The link to the Notre Dame’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures provides examples of leaning goals for the major and division, and includes rubrics for assessing student work. The example from Western Washington University outlines the student learning goals for a major in Political Science, and links assessment measures to learning goals to the major. The University of New Mexico’s assessment plan for Economics includes a progression of expected learning outcomes and associated measures, and descriptions of how the plan will be implemented and how the results will be used.

Life Sciences

The assessment plan for Food Science from Iowa State University matches learning goals with specific competencies, and the example from the University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences integrates assessment plans and reports from several programs.

Physical Sciences

Both of the examples from Utah State University below illustrate the expectations for majors in the physical sciences. The comprehensive Geology example outlines learning goals, includes a curriculum map, and describes their use of four assessments of student achievement. The example from Physics includes a capstone project:

Social Sciences

The example below outlines the expectations and goals for Psychology majors at one institution, along with a plan for assessing them. It also includes an example of a survey that could be used to assess whether some of the outcomes have been achieved. The example for Sociology includes a rubric for assessing student achievement of their stated learning goals:


This example reflects a comprehensive plan and curriculum map for assessing student learning in the Charles Widger School of Law, Villanova University:

Quick starts: Guides and Templates

Once you have articulated learning goals, you may be interested in using the templates below for assessing student learning. These tools can be very helpful for applying the criteria you have established for student performance, and for tracking progress reaching your goals.

Templates for Assessment Plans
The templates below provide a framework for getting started, and indicate the elements that should be included in any assessment plans.

Grading rubrics

Grading rubrics identify the specific, separate traits you wish to evaluate, and student work is evaluated on a scale from high to low. They can help increase consistency among graders, or make the process for individual graders more consistent or fair. They can also help speed up the grading process. Examples:

Test blueprints

Test blueprints help to align exam questions and other assessment measures with your learning goals. Examples:

Curriculum mapping

Curriculum mapping allows faculty to track learning goals across courses or programs. The maps can help identify gaps, facilitate the integration of courses, and help to target course revisions, and are useful for communicating where in a curriculum various learning goals are addressed. A few helpful links to get started are below: