Santa Clara University


Basic Steps of Program Assessment

Assessment of student learning includes the following steps

  1. Define the program mission and goals.
  2. Establish student-learning outcomes (SLOs).
  3. Determine "learning opportunities" (i.e., where throughout the curriculum, the learning takes place)
  4. Undertake an assessment process: establish a research question/goal; collect and evaluate evidence (direct/indirect evidence of student learning); evaluate, analyze, and interpret evidence.
  5. Based on the results, create and implement an action plan to improve the program and student learning.

Steps 1-3 are typically done once and then revisited as needed. Steps 4 and 5 are repeated each time an assessment activity/process takes place.


Characteristics of good assessment planning

  • Focuses on the program (e.g., the major) rather than individual courses
  • Has 2-6 goals and 3-8 student learning outcomes
  • Anticipates how the results will be used for improvement and decision making
  • Collaboratively created with input and discussion by the entire department
  • Describes the goals(s) of each planned assessment project
  • Is systematic
  • Is manageable
  • Over time, multiple data-collection methods are used
  • Is conveyed to students and the students understand their role in assessment
  • Leads to program improvement
  • Includes an evaluation of the assessment and repeats assessment if necessary

*Adapted from the University of Hawaii, Manoa Assessment website

Elements of an Assessment Plan**

  • How will each outcome be assessed? What direct assessment and indirect assessment evidence will be collected?
  • When and how often will you assess each outcome?
  • How will the evidence be collected?
  • How will the evidence be assessed?
  • Who will reflect on the results and decide if and how to close the loop (whole department, Assessment Committee, Curriculum Committee, relevant subset of the faculty?)? When?
  • How will results and closing the loop actions be documented?

Example One:


Each year assessment studies and the documentation of loop closing will be summarized in our annual assessment report. 

**Adapted from handout prepared by Marry Allen for WASC Leadership Academy, 2014.


Example Two: SCU Environmental Studies and Sciences assessment plan (includes all elements of assessment plan).

Example Three: UC Berkeley Chemistry Department (includes all elements of assessment plan).

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