Short Guide to Student Learning Assessment for Departments

Assessment of learning outcomes are separate but interconnected to department self-study activities. Assessment of student learning outcomes is an annual activity focused on the question of how well students are learning the knowledge, skills, and values set by the program. The choice of outcomes as well as their assessment and related activities are carried out by the faculty in a department.

Assessment of Program Student Learning Outcomes:

Learning outcomes can be defined at the course level or at the program level. Program level student learning outcomes are the skills, knowledge, and values that faculty expect students to be able to demonstrate as a result of going through the program’s courses and other learning experiences. All of your program goals need to be assessed on a rotating cycle, as laid out in your department/program assessment plans

Details about the Program Assessment Plan

  • Create an Assessment Plan for each of the programs (graduate, undergraduate, concentrations) in your department. Choose 3-6 broad and measurable goals for each program. Identify which courses in your program(s) cover the goals your department has written. A plan template is available on this website.
  • Identify capstone or senior level course(s) where students demonstrate the highest level of achievement of a program goal(s). Depending on the course, you may be able to assess more than one goal in the same course. (A description of a curriculum map is included in the plan template. For an electronic template for a map, contact Dr. Michael J. Anderson, Director of Assessment, at  
  • Choose a two-or three-year cycle for assessment and assign one or more of your goals to each year. It would easier if you assign equal number of goals to be assessed each year. For example, if you have four goals and you use a two-year cycle, you can assess goals 1 and 2 in the first year and goals 3 and 4 in the second year. Conduct the assessment (see frequently asked questions section and/or consult the Office of Academic Assessment for information and assistance) 
  • In the year after you assessed a goal, you would analyze the assessment results and use them to inform your decisions to improve student learning, budgeting, resource allocation, etc. (closing the loop). This might include, for example, things like program improvement through curriculum changes, new course offerings (curricular resources); professional development opportunities focused on teaching, new equipment (financial resources); requests for use of space, facilities and/or equipment (physical resources); re-design of courses, pedagogical innovation, improved delivery of material (pedagogical resources).
  • Report the results of your assessment and the actions taken and/or planned based on the results once a year to the Dean and the Office of Academic Assessment. An easy to use reporting form is available from the Office of Academic Assessment.
  • Repeat the process for the next cycle.

The self-study for the department will be every seven years. This will allow you to include the assessment results of two or three cycles of program assessment in the self-study (depending upon the assessment cycle). Remember that the self-study reviews programs in the department with a much broader perspective than the assessment of program learning outcomes. The assessment of program goals is just a part of the self-study among many other things.

The general education component of the curricula is treated as an institution level program. Accordingly, the general education learning outcomes are defined and assessed just like any other academic program. On a rotating cycle across the college, a sample of general education courses will be assessed each semester.  Since general education as a program does not belong to a single department, this activity is coordinated by the General Education Committee Assessment Sub-committee (GECAS).  They will ask a few departments each semester to assess one or more general education courses contributing to a learning goal. In consultation with GECAS, the department then chooses the course(s) they will assess specifically related to the learning goal.

Dr. Michael J. Anderson is available to work with each department individually to design your General Education course assessment and to create your Program Assessment Plan. Please call at 718.982.2566 or email at with any questions.