Program Learning Assessment

Eight Steps of Student Learning Assessment

NSU identifies the following steps in the student learning outcomes assessment process: 

1. Articulate program mission and vision
2. Establish program learning outcomes
3. Develop outcome measures
4. Align program PLOs, outcome measures, and curriculum
5. Engage learners
6. Gather and analyze data
7. Share and Report Data
8. Make evidence-based decisions (close the loop)

Eight Steps of Student Learing Assessment

NSU's Assessment Handbook

The Handbook includes ideas and suggestions intended to provide useful information for staff, faculty, and department chairs. Since each program differs in terms of size, approach, and outlook, it is important to ensure that the assessment approach matches the needs of the program. 

Access NSU's Assessment Handbook.

Program Learning Outcomes

Effective Program Learning Outcomes

PLOs are statements that specify what students will know or be able to do as a result of completing their program. Effective PLOs are expressed as expected knowledge, skills, or abilities that students will possess upon successful completion of a program.  They provide guidance for faculty and program staff regarding content, instruction, and evaluation, and serve as the basis for ensuring program effectiveness. 

For example, a student learning outcome may be stated as follows, “Construct an educational philosophy statement which guides instructional decisions.” Other student learning outcome examples include “Explain the difference between an independent and a dependent variable” and “Identify the basic principles of electricity.” Student learning outcomes are written in terms of what the student is expected to learn and how the student must demonstrate competency in that expectation. 

Strategies for Developing Effective Program Learning Outcomes

Drafting student learning outcomes is an iterative process that may require several versions to capture the true essence of core ideas. Prior to developing or revising program PLOs, the program’s leader and/or program staff may wish to meet with assessment staff. The Executive Director of Planning and Assessment and College Student Learning Assessment Coordinator are available to assist.

Questions to Consider When Drafting PLOs:

●       Are there specific skills or abilities that students need? What are they?

●       How does interacting with the program attempt to shape students’ attitudes or views?

●       How do these skills, abilities, or habits of mind relate to the university’s mission and core competencies?

●       How should the expected student learning competencies build upon each other and progress throughout the program?


S.P.A.M. Criteria: PLOs should be concise, specific and measurable, and written in quantifiable terms. Outcomes should be: 

●       Specific. Your student learning outcome should begin with a verb and target one key competency per outcome.

●       Purposeful. Your student learning outcome should be relevant to your students and your  program. It should directly impact your field and those within it. The outcome should be stated in terms of a student's terminal performance as a learning product. 

●       Attainable. Your student learning outcome should reflect that the student will be able to complete the outcome within a reasonable time that can be measured. 

●       Measurable. Your student learning outcome has to be measured via a direct or indirect measurement.