Defining Assessment

Defining Assessment

Assessment of Student Learning

Assessment of Student Learning is accomplished using intentional assessment methods that align with the learning outcomes. A variety of formal and informal types of assessments are appropriate for evaluating students’ knowledge comprehension or demonstration of learning outcomes. Rubrics are commonly used to score assessments of student learning.

  • Formative assessment: Scaffolded learning activities aligned with learning outcomes and designed to 1) allow instructors to monitor learning and determine gaps in understanding in order to adjust a course or refine practices, and 2) provide feedback to students that helps them reflect on their learning and ask questions. Typically low stakes.
  • Summative assessment: Evaluates or measures student learning based on learning outcomes and delivered at the conclusion of instructional unit. Typically more high stakes.

Learning Outcomesdesign backward deliver forward

Learning outcomes describe the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that students are expected to gain as a result of their learning in a course, program, discipline, or degree. Learning outcomes typically are expressed using active verbs that align with the level at which students are expected to demonstrate learning. Outcomes-based curriculum is designed "backwards," connecting course content and activities to the learning outcomes. (Click the image, from Simmons College, to learn more about backwards design.)

Course-level learning outcomes are explicitly stated on the course outline and the course syllabus. Course outcomes are more specific and identify what a student will learn (knowledge, skills, abilities, and values). Course outcomes are assessed in a single course and may build skills that will be developed further in subsequent courses.

NOTE: Every course at Lane has learning outcomes. These are part of Lane's state-approved curriculum. Current course learning outcomes are displayed with each course listed in the Banner student registration system. All sections of the same course should use the same learning outcomes.

Program- and discipline-level learning outcomes: Statements that express what students will learn while completing a specific program or a series of discipline-specific courses. These outcomes represent learning that is intentionally structured or scaffolded to build over an extended period of time. Learning outcomes for graduates of Career Technical programs are listed in the catalog.

Core Learning Outcomes (CLOs) at Lane: Were developed by faculty to describe the transferable skills students who attend Lane should develop as a result of their educational and co-curricular experiences. Each CLO includes multiple dimensions and is defined more in-depth on the Core Learning Outcomes page.

CLO1: Think critically
CLO2: Engage diverse values with civic and ethical awareness
CLO3: Create ideas and solutions
CLO4: Communicate effectively
CLO5: Apply learning

Curriculum Mapping

Shows alignment among courses and within academic programs. Indicates how learning outcomes at various levels are connected to each other. The “map” is often completed as a chart or spreadsheet and indicates in which courses learning outcomes are addressed through direct teaching and which specific activities or assignments are used to evaluate/measure student attainment of learning outcomes. Learn more about creating a curriculum map.

Map course outcomes to program-level outcomes: Faculty identify how course outcomes build knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are described by program-level outcomes. In this way, multiple courses contribute to students’ growth in attaining program competencies. Individual courses may contribute to one or more program outcomes.

Map course outcomes to CLOs: Faculty demonstrate how student learning at the course and program level contributes to student growth in the broader competencies embodied by the CLOs. Individual courses are not expected to address all CLOs, though some may to varying degrees. The process also serves to help us build a deeper understanding of how courses work together to foster a liberal education, and to inform stakeholders - students, faculty, staff, parents and the general public - regarding the value of a liberal education.

Assessment Types

Artifact: Completed assignments, exams, or any other student work that is used to evaluate students’ progress toward, or attainment of, learning outcomes. Artifacts may be collected from multiple sections of the same course in order for faculty to assess student attainment of common outcomes.

Capstone courses or projects: These often involve a course project, set of activities, or complex and integrated demonstration of learning that engages students in synthesis and application of multiple outcomes. Capstone courses or projects usually occur in the last term of a course sequence or a program and provide students the opportunity to demonstrate culminating attainment of course and program outcomes.

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs): Classroom activities (often ungraded) designed to gauge students’ knowledge and skills, learner attitudes and self­-awareness, and to determine effectiveness of instruction at points throughout the course.

Signature assignments: Course-embedded assignments that are used across multiple sections of a course in order to determine students’ proficiency in particular course outcomes. Signature assignments are collaboratively developed by faculty to assess the specific outcomes and help determine whether current instructional strategies are achieving the intended learning.


Rubrics further describe learning outcomes in practical, illustrative language tailored to the assignment, along with a scale to rate demonstration of the outcomes. It is a best practice to use a common rubric or other agreed upon assessment tool to evaluate student knowledge and skills across multiple sections of a course. Rubrics can be effective learning tools when shared with students before and after completing an assignment. Learn more about rubrics.

CLO rubrics identify specific criteria related to each of the five outcome areas. In order to assess progress on CLOs, faculty should examine the rubrics and may decide to tailor the rubrics to their own disciplines.