Office of Student Learning Assessment

Examples of Direct and Indirect Measures

Examples of Direct Measures of Student Learning

  • Scores and pass rates on standardized tests (licensure/certification as well as other published tests determining key student learning outcomes)
  • Writing samples
  • Score gains indicating the “value added” to the students’ learning experiences by comparing entry and exit tests (either published or locally developed) as well as writing samples
  • Locally designed quizzes, tests, and inventories
  • Portfolio artifacts (these artifacts could be designed for introductory, working, or professional portfolios)
  • Capstone projects (these could include research papers, presentations, theses, dissertations, oral defenses, exhibitions, or performances)
  • Case studies
  • Team/group projects and presentations
  • Oral examination
  • Internships, clinical experiences, practica, student teaching, or other professional/content-related experiences engaging students in hands-on experiences in their respective fields of study (accompanied by ratings or evaluation forms from field/clinical supervisors)
  • Service-learning projects or experiences
  • Authentic and performance-based projects or experiences engaging students in opportunities to apply their knowledge to the larger community (accompanied by ratings, scoring rubrics or performance checklists from project/experience coordinator or supervisor)
  • Graduates’ skills in the workplace rated by employers
  • Online course asynchronous discussions analyzed by class instructors

Whenever appropriate, scoring keys help identify the knowledge, skills, and/or dispositions assessed by means of the particular assessment instrument, thus documenting student learning directly.

Examples of Indirect Measures of Student Learning

  • Course grades provide information about student learning indirectly because of a series of reasons, such as: a) due to the focus on student performance or achievement at the level of an individual class, such grades do not represent an indication of learning over a longer course of time than the duration of that particular class or across different courses within a program; b) grading systems vary from class to class; and c) grading systems in one class may be used inconsistently from student to student
  • Grades assigned to student work in one particular course also provide information about student learning indirectly because of the reasons mentioned above. Moreover, graded student work in isolation, without an accompanying scoring rubric, does not lead to relevant meaning related to overall student performance or achievement in one class or a program
  • Comparison between admission and graduation rates
  • Number or rate of graduating students pursuing their education at the next level
  • Reputation of graduate or post-graduate programs accepting graduating students
  • Employment or placement rates of graduating students into appropriate career positions
  • Course evaluation items related to the overall course or curriculum quality, rather than instructor effectiveness
  • Number or rate of students involved in faculty research, collaborative publications and/or presentations, service learning, or extension of learning in the larger community
  • Surveys, questionnaires, open-ended self-reports, focus-group or individual interviews dealing with current students’ perception of their own learning
  • Surveys, questionnaires, focus-group or individual interviews dealing with alumni’s perception of their own learning or of their current career satisfaction (which relies on their effectiveness in the workplace, influenced by the knowledge, skills, and/or dispositions developed in school)
  • Surveys, questionnaires, focus-group or individual interviews dealing with the faculty and staff members’ perception of student learning as supported by the programs and services provided to students
  • Quantitative data, such as enrollment numbers
  • Honors, awards,  scholarships, and other forms of public recognition earned by students and alumni

[Adapted from Maki, P.L. (2004). Assessing for learning: building a sustainable commitment across the institution. Sterling, VA: AAHE; and Suskie, L. (2004). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide. San Francisco, CA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc.]