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Academic Assessment Committee: Terms

Basic Terms

Basic Terms

A program director (PD) setting up assessment for a new program should consult the following list of terms. For additional resources on setting up assessment, a PD will want to consult Curriculum Lifecycle and AAC Knowledge Pack

Assessment Plan A document that outlines program (student learning) outcomes, the direct and indirect assessment methods used to demonstrate the attainment of each outcome, a brief explanation of the assessment methods, an indication of which outcome(s) is/are addressed by each method, the intervals at which evidence is collected and reviewed, and the individual(s) responsible for the collection/review of evidence.
Program Description Please see separate section under Starting a Program in this LibGuide.
Program Outcomes Please see separate section under Starting a Program in this LibGuide.
Direct Measures (DM) Process employed to gather data that requires subjects to display their knowledge, behavior, or thought processes. Indicates proficiency level of student’s knowledge and/or skills. Also called “direct evidence”, this would be learning that enables students to readily persist, graduate, transfer, and/or obtain work. Examples: scores or rates from capstone experiences, presentations, performances, portfolios, papers or other written work, licensure exams, and field experiences. (Suskie, 2018)
Indirect Measures (IM) Process employed to gather data which asks subjects to reflect upon their knowledge, behaviors, or thought processes. Responses may indicate an opinion or level of satisfaction. Other examples include data that reflects on students’ knowledge, understanding, or performance. Examples: course grades, retention rates, graduation rates, scores on tests for future study (e.g. GRE), placement rates, alumni perceptions, students’ ratings of program, and students’ awards earned. (Suskie, 2018)
Targets A target states a standard or minimum threshold of demonstrated performance for a measure (DM or IM). A good target would be specific, ambitious while achievable, and easily interpreted by a reader. An example would be: 80% of artifacts (assignment submissions) will be scored at 3 or higher on a 4 level rubric for a DM on portfolios.
Assessment Results or Findings Submitted at the end of the academic year, this would be a comparison of actual vs. expected (on targets) achievement levels on the measures. A program director would write a substantial interpretation of results that can be easily followed by readers, including on sample sizes and actual numbers of artifacts scored as meeting targets. A new program may not have measurable data for up to several years on some measures (typically DMs), e.g. on a capstone experience.
Action Plans Activity sequence designed to help entity better accomplish intended outcomes/objectives. A program director would write a clear description on how the program will change. Typical changes may be related to proposed improvements in instruction or course content, alterations of measures and targets, curricular changes, and staff changes.
Other Terms
Levels of Instruction Introduced, reinforced, mastered, assessed
Assessment Process to answer the question, “Are our efforts bringing forth the desired results?”
Assessment of Student Learning Process to answer the question, “What learning occurred during the span of a course or program?” An on-going process of measuring (using direct and indirect measures) the extent to which students are learning specific knowledge, skills, and habits of mind as stated in program outcomes. The results are then used to substantiate curriculum and pedagogical changes needed to enhance student learning
Formative Assessment Assessment occurring during the process of a unit, service, course, degree, certificate, or institutional experience. Provides feedback to instructor/staff member and student as to how learning activities and outcomes might be improved.
Summative Assessment An assessment done at the end of a unit, service, course, degree, certificate, or institutional experience to determine the degree of success or to what extent the program/project/course met its goals.
Introduced Indicates concepts or content presented within a program for the first time.
Reinforced Indicates students are afforded opportunities to practice and learn the concepts or content.
Mastered Students have had sufficient practice and that a particular course assignment can be used as an outcome assessment point.

A final note - assessment information (i.e. outcomes, measures, targets, results, and action plans) would typically be entered in, stored in, and printed from assessment software.


Suskie, L. (2018). Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide, 3rd Ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 1119426936