Office of Student Learning Assessment

Assessment Overview


Below you will find several Web links to important aspects, both theoretical and practical, of the complex process of student learning assessment in place at Cleveland State University. By clicking on any of them you will be able to access text as well as graphic representations designed to make assessment efforts simple, manageable, and useful.

Q. Why assess student learning?

Assessment is a continuous collaborative effort that informs all participants in the process, as follows:

  • Instructors: Is my classroom-based teaching and learning sequence working? What evidence do I have of that? Based on that set of data, what changes do I need to make to the curriculum, instructional strategies, activities, and/or resources to maximize my students’ performance and achievement?
  • Students: Is this class or program or student support service meeting a particular need I have as a learner? What evidence do I have of that? Where do I go from here in pursuing my education?
  • Administrators: Are the different programs within the different colleges and/or student support services within the various units on campus meeting specific needs of our students pursuing their education at our institution? What evidence do we have of that? Based on that set of data, what strategic decisions – financial or otherwise - do we need to make to improve the overall effectiveness of our university in terms of teaching, learning, research, service, and engagement connecting our campus to the larger community?
  • Parents, community members, and other stakeholders: How is this institution of higher education meeting the needs of our community related to preparing future generations of productive citizens actively participating in decision-making processes critical to the further development of our society and world? What evidence do we have of that? How could we contribute to the university’s efforts to be a steward of democracy and center of academic excellence?

Q. What is assessment?

A. The process of systematically collecting and using information to increase students' learning and development

Assessment is a form of data-based decision making. We make decisions about programs continually (e.g., Should one course be a prerequisite for another? Should there be more emphasis on one component of a program? Is there a more effective way to teach a concept?) The assessment process is a systematically way of collecting and using data to help answer questions and make decisions related to student learning and development.

Q. When is assessment done?

A. Assessment is an ongoing process and should not be only when the reports are due!

Assessment of student learning is never completed! We continually make decisions about programs, teaching and services (Do we leave things the same? Do we make changes, and if so how and in what way?) so we need to collect, analyze and review information regularly.

Assessment reports provide a snapshot of the assessment process at one point in time. In one sense they can not ever be “finalized” because assessment is an ongoing process.

Q. How is assessment done?

Assessment at CSU follows a cycle.


  • Clear, realistic, meaningful statements of purpose or aspirations
  • Written in terms of student learning and development.

    • Business administration: Students will learn to function effectively as a team member to run a small business
    • Theology: Students will demonstrate an awareness of the religious nature of the human person
    • Goals are developed with discussions among faculty, staff (and students) in relation to university mission statement


  • More detailed statements than goals written in terms capable of being measured
  • They include knowledge, skills, habits of mind, modes of inquiry, dispositions, attitudes or values
    • Example, Art Program
    • Goal
      Students will develop the knowledge, tools and experience necessary to work in art-related fields and/or apply these in multiple other professions.
    • Outcomes: Students will:
    • Develop job-seeking skills (resume, interviewing, networking, etc.).
    • Develop an artist’s statement.
    • Prepare professional photo documentation or portfolio.


Multiple methods including indirect and direct measures should be used

  • Direct evidence of actual learning e.g. paper, exam, artistic performance
  • Indirect evidence about characteristics associated with learning, e.g., student perception surveys, focus group interviews, alumni surveys
  • See this link for a more complete list of indirect and direct measures


Research should be shared & discussed with program faculty, staff and when appropriate students

    • e.g., as part of regular department or unit meetings, in special program or unit meetings


  • Based on the review actions may be taken to
    • Modify the Program

e.g. Analysis of the exit projects in a BA in sociology indicated that students’ skills in quantitative analysis were weak. The faculty decided to add an additional 200 level course in statistics.

  • Modify the Assessment

e.g., Students scored very low on one section of an exit examination in a business administration program. An analysis of the examination indicated that some questions were poorly worded so the faculty decided to modify these sections of the examination