Data collection methods for outcomes assessment is generally divided into two categories (i.e., direct and indirect measures). Degree programs and academic and student support services oftentimes use a combination of direct and indirect measures to assess outcomes. Indirect measures alone are insufficient in measuring student learning. Best practices recommend the use of both direct and indirect measures in the assessment of outcomes.
When defined within the context of degree programs and academic and student support services, direct assessment measures capture student’s actual performance in a way that demonstrates specific learning has occurred. Direct assessment measures help to provide key insights into what students can do, which provides strong evidence of student learning. The strength of this measure lies in the fact that it requires students to produce work so that the extent to which learning expectations have been met can be evaluated.
Following are examples of Direct Measures of Student Learning
- Portfolio evaluation
- Grading with scoring rubric
- Course-embedded tests, assignments/projects
- Culminating experiences: capstone projects, theses
- Employer’s or internship supervisor’s direct evaluation of students’ performance
- Licensure exams
- Pre and post-test
Note: Grades alone do not usually provide meaningful information on exactly what students have and have not learned (Suskie, 2013). They represent student’s overall competency and do not identify strengths and weaknesses on specific learning outcomes. As such, it makes it difficult to decide how to improve teaching and learning.
When defined within the context of degree programs and academic and student services, indirect assessment measures capture student’s attitudes, perceptions, or feelings about their learning. This measurement type provides less concrete evidence of student learning but can be used in conjunction with direct measures to gain more insight into the impact of the teaching and learning process. Indirect measures also include data that is related to students, but not directly tied to an outcome (e.g., job placement rates, graduation rates, progression rates, etc.)
Following are examples of commonly used Indirect Measures of Student Learning
- Alumni, employer, student engagement surveys
- Graduate exit surveys
- Departmental surveys
- Focus groups
- Curriculum/syllabus analysis
The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE) project provides generalized rubrics designed to support the assessment of student learning in three domains:
- Intellectual and Practical Skills
- Personal and Social Responsibility
- Integrative and Applied Learning
There is a total of 16 measurable outcomes and a generalized rubric for measuring each. Following is a list of the VALUE Rubrics organized by learning outcome.
Intellectual and Practical Skills
- Inquiry and analysis
- Critical thinking
- Creative thinking
- Written communication
- Oral communication
- Quantitative literacy
- Information literacy
- Problem solving
Personal and Social Responsibility
- Civic engagement—local and global
- Intercultural knowledge and competence
- Ethical reasoning
- Foundations and skills for lifelong learning
- Global learning
Integrative and Applied Learning
Note: The generalized rubrics are easily adaptable for measuring the learning outcomes in your program and provides’ a list of criteria and achievement descriptions for each.
AAC&U Value Rubrics