How to Embed Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes in Regularly Scheduled Assignments

Doug Davis

Assistant Professor of English



As part of Gordon’s ongoing assessment process, faculty must measure, record, and report the results of their students’ performance on knowledges and skills identified as outcomes for their general educational experience and programs of concentration.  


This past February, as a representative of the Humanities Division, I attended a workshop at Brenau University run by Dr. Larry H. Kelley of Larry Kelley Educational Services on the subject of embedding assessment of student learning outcomes in regularly scheduled assignments.


On this page you will find a summary of Dr. Kelley’s advice for faculty as well as sample assessment forms distributed at the Brenau workshop.


Dr. Kelley offered several pieces of good advice, specifically for individual faculty members, on the following topics: 1) how a college can develop program outcomes; 2) how individual faculty members can manage the assessment process in their courses; 3) how faculty can measure outcomes in their coursework; and 4) how faculty can report their assessment findings for each outcome.  I will discuss each of these in turn.


1. How a college can develop program outcomes


Dr. Kelley presented an overview of how to develop program outcomes, using a management department as a model. At Gordon College we have already accomplished the task of developing both general education and program outcomes.


Dr. Kelley’s advice on how to develop program outcomes corresponds well with the presentation delivered to Gordon faculty in the fall of 2004 by Dr. Albert McCormick on how to develop an assessment plan for the college.  In short, we are on the right track.


Conslt these linked files for Dr. Kelley’s overview of the assessment process and his sample program outcomes.


2. How individual faculty members may manage the assessment process in their courses


Dr. Kelley broke down the assessment process for individual faculty members into the following steps:


  • Identify which general education and program outcomes will be measured in which courses. (This has already been done at Gordon.)
  • Include intended outcomes in course syllabi. The language used in the syllabus should correspond with the language of the program’s outcomes.
  • At the beginning of the term identify target activities in which assessment of those outcomes will be conducted (exams, papers, performances, etc.).
  • Grade the targeted activities to ensure student effort.
  • Formulate assessment criteria for those activities.  These criteria should be challenging, yet attainable.
  • Use either exams or specialized grading rubrics to assess performance of individual students for each outcome. Keep copies of graded exams, grading sheets, and rubrics on file.
  • Compose a final individual report of assessment findings. A separate report should be completed for each measured outcome.  At Gordon, we already have our own report shell that individual faculty can use as a template for their own assessment reporting.


3. How faculty can measure outcomes in their coursework


Dr. Kelley recommended two ways to measure outcomes in coursework:


1. Measure questions embedded in exams that correspond with outcomes.


2. Use specialized grading rubrics or grade sheets to evaluate individual student performance in assignments such as essays, research papers, and oral presentations. An assessment rubric notes knowledges and skills targeted as outcomes while also serving as a grade sheet.  Click here to download Kelley’s sample assessment rubrics and a blank rubric shell.


Dr. Kelley offered the following pieces of advice on how to devise assessment rubrics for specific program outcomes:

  • include levels of performance from poorest to best
  • assign ratings to performance levels
  • devise a scoring procedure


4. How faculty can report assessment findings


After all exams and targeted assignments have been completed and measured at the end of the term, it is necessary to compose a final report of findings for each measured outcome.  Dr. Kelley recommended that this report consist of four parts:


  1. Expected results, as specified in the outcome statement
  2. Actual results, as determined by your measurements
  3. A description of problems encountered in the course that account for results under expectations
  4. A description of actions taken during the semester to raise performance and/or recommendations for further action to raise performance in future classes. Recommendations can still be made to raise student performance even if your results match or exceed expectations.


The Assessment Committee has already provided Gordon faculty with a template for their final reports.  In Gordon’s report template parts 3 and 4 have been combined into a single part.


Dr. Kelley offered the following two pieces of advice on how to fill out the report:


  • in the report it is permissible to identify which units or classes are designed to be particularly difficult; more difficult courses may account for low assessment results
  • in the statement of problems encountered, include both academic and non-academic reasons for assessment results.  After all, there may be mundane yet very real reasons to account for low assessment results that have nothing to do with course material, such as: disturbances due to construction; parking problems that prevent students from attending class; faculty illness; participation in student athletics that prevents a large percentage of students from regularly attending class.


When Gordon faculty members give their outcome reports to their Division’s respective outcome coordinators, then their part in the assessment process is done for the semester.