Assessment of student learning begins with the instructor asking three basic questions:
- "What do I want my students to learn?"
- "How do I know if my students are learning what I want them to learn?"
- "How can I help my students learn better what I want them to learn?"
Every instructor considers these questions when planning a course. Learning outcomes assessment is simply a way to formalize this basic component of teaching. By answering the first question—"What do I want my students to learn?"—the instructor is identifying the broad learning goals for the course. By asking the question in a somewhat different way—"What should my students be able to do after taking this course?"—the instructor is taking the first step toward identifying measurable student learning outcomes.
The process of learning outcomes assessment is often described as a loop. Here's a concise version:
- identify learning outcomes
- select method(s) of assessment
- assess learning outcomes
- collect assessment data
- interpret assessment data
- consider and revise learning outcomes, methods of assessment, methods of instruction, and plan for future assessment.
Taking what we have learned from the one round of assessment and applying that to how and what we assess (and how and what we teach) the next time around is commonly referred to as "closing the loop." Thus, learning assessment is an ongoing, cyclical process, and each round of assessment ends with reflection on lessons learned and revision of the plan for instruction and assessment.
Shared Responsibility for GenEd Assessment
In accordance with the GenEd assessment plan (see GEMS Policies and Procedures), the responsibility for ongoing assessment of the General Education Program is shared by departments, schools, instructors, and the General Education Monitoring Subcommittee (GEMS). Academic units (i.e., departments and schools) that offer IU Bloomington General Education Common Ground courses are responsible for
- specifying the learning outcomes of their Common Ground courses
- assessing the effectiveness of those courses in achieving the learning outcomes
- ensuring the continued alignment of course learning outcomes with the relevant Common Ground learning outcomes.
Instructors of GenEd courses are responsible for
- ensuring that both the course learning objectives and the GenEd learning outcomes addressed by the course are spelled out clearly in the course syllabus
- providing GEMS with the syllabus for each GenEd-approved course
- choosing at least one of the relevant GenEd Learning Outcome(s) to be assessed in the course
- identifying one assignment that will be used to assess the chosen GenEd Learning Outcome(s)
- creating a grading rubric for the specified assignment, indicating how the chosen GenEd Learning Outcome(s) will be assessed within the context of the specified assignment
- providing GEMS with aggregate assessment data on that single assignment.
The General Education Monitoring Subcommittee (GEMS) is responsible for
- monitoring the assessment of the GenEd curriculum
- gathering assessment data from the academic units
- ensuring the ongoing assessment of GenEd Learning Outcomes in all GenEd-approved courses
- reporting on the effectiveness of the GenEd Program, both to the BFC and to the IUB community as a whole.
While the monitoring of GenEd-related student learning outcomes assessment is an integral part of the IUB General Education Program as defined by the Bloomington Faculty Council, it is also important to note that Indiana University's accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission, requires the assessment of student learning outcomes in general education and the use of assessment data to improve student learning. (For more on the Higher Learning Commission criteria for accreditation, see Criteria for Accreditation.) Thorough and ongoing assessment of the General Education Program is essential for maintaining our accreditation status.