Assessment at ϲʲͼ

Assessment should be   . . .

 natural - flowing from teaching and learning, program and course outcomes, and college and university mission statements

 purposeful - monitoring learning, teaching, program efficacy, institutional effectiveness, or public accountability

 feasible - maximizing the use of technology, while minimizing time and effort

 informative – utilizing findings to make decisions regarding learning, teaching, program efficacy, institutional effectiveness, or public accountability

picture of student presenting research to faculty member ϲʲͼ Mercy engages in ongoing assessment of student learning as part of our commitment to students' educational outcomes.

ϲʲͼ Mercy Institutional Outcomes

The ϲʲͼ’s Institutional Outcomes serve as an umbrella for all student learning outcomes across the University. These include outcomes in co-curricular, undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs, as well as in the undergraduate core curriculum. These Institutional Outcomes are the knowledge, skills, abilities, and habits of mind that students are expected to develop as a result of their overall experience at ϲʲͼ Mercy.

ϲʲͼ Mercy Institutional Outcomes (pdf)

Mapping of Core Curriculum Outcomes to Institutional Outcomes (pdf)

Mission Alignment of Institutional Outcomes

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    Students will be able to apply Jesuit and Mercy Values to their personal and professional responsibilities.

    Students will value multiple perspectives of diversity and human difference through exposure to a variety of cultures, communities, and contexts that prepare them to work and live in diverse settings, and to engage as citizens of the world.

    Students will be able to comprehensively explore a problem; make connections between information before accepting or formulating an opinion, solution, or conclusion; and conduct ongoing evaluation.

    Students will be able to communicate effectively within academic, professional, and civic contexts using genres and/or modalities appropriate for their purpose and audience.

    Students will behave in a professional and ethical manner, exhibiting honesty, fairness, equality, dignity, integrity, and respect for individual rights and differences in all interactions.

    Students will develop foundational skills for lifelong learning, including curiosity, transfer, independence, initiative, and reflection.


Assessment is an on-going process aimed at understanding and improving student learning. It involves making our expectations explicit and public; setting appropriate criteria and high standards for learning quality; systematically gathering, analyzing and interpreting evidence to determine how well performance matches those expectations and standards; and using the resulting information to document, explain, and improve performance. See Assessment Terms section of this webpage for national definitions of frequently used assessment terms.

University Assessment Team

The  is the primary oversight body for the student outcomes assessment programs of the University. The Assessment Team reports to the vice president for Academic Affairs and is comprised of

  • One representative from each of the colleges or schools.
  • One representative from the library.
  • One faculty member from the McNichols Faculty Assembly.
  • Two administrative representatives.

The  is responsible for

  • Developing a mechanism for sharing best practices around the University regarding assessment.
  • Reviewing the assessment methodologies being used by each school and identifying those schools in which assessment activities require improvement.
  • Providing ongoing reports to and consultation with the academic vice president and provost.
  • Keeping the University community informed of team activities.

Continuous Improvement

Assessment of Student Learning

Assessment of student learning is the systematic collection of information about student learning, using the time, knowledge, expertise and resources available, in order to inform decisions about how to improve learning (Walvoord, Assessment Clear and Simple). At the heart of our assessment efforts is the work of Barbara Walvoord who states the three steps of assessment are:

  1. Articulate goals for student learning.
  2. Gather evidence about how well students are meeting the goals.
  3. Use the information for improvement.

The defining feature of Walvoord's approach to assessment is her emphasis on the course-embedded assignment and on the professional expertise of the individual professor, whose experience in grading student work is the foundational assessment act. Walvoord suggests that professors become intentional, reflective, and explicit in identifying and sharing criteria for students’ expected level of performance on each assignment. She asks professors to develop rubrics that specify levels of performance across various criteria, to use the rubrics to score student work, and then to analyze the distribution of scores to discover patterns of strengths and weaknesses in student performance. When these patterns are reported at a department meeting, the ensuing faculty discussion often leads to suggested improvements in teaching methods, assignments, course design, or curricular coverage to ameliorate weaknesses. A department's assessment plan consists of student learning outcomes, assessment methods (embedded assignments) and criteria for success.

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  • Higher Learning Commission - Student Learning, Assessment, and Accreditation

    “Among the public’s many expectations of higher education, the most basic is that students will learn, and in particular that they will learn what they need to know to attain personal success and fulfill their public responsibilities in a global and diverse society. Student learning is central to all higher education organizations; therefore, these organizations define educational quality--one of their core purposes--by how well they achieve their declared mission relative to student learning. A focus on achieved student learning is critical not only to a higher education organization’s ability to promote and improve curricular and co-curricular learning experiences and to provide evidence of the quality of educational experiences and programs, but also to fulfill the most basic public expectations and needs of higher education” (HLC, 2007).

     The Higher Learning Commission’s Fundamental Questions for Conversations on Student Learning

     “In using these questions, an organization should ground its conversations in its distinct mission, context, commitments, goals and intended outcomes for student learning. In addition to informing ongoing improvement in student learning, these conversations will assist organizations and peer reviewers in discerning evidence for the Criteria and Core Components” (HLC, 2007).

    1. How are your stated student learning outcomes appropriate to your mission, programs, degrees, and students?
    2. What evidence do you have that students achieve your stated learning outcomes?
    3. In what ways do you analyze and use evidence of student learning?
    4. How do you ensure shared responsibility for student learning and for assessment of student learning?
    5. How do you evaluate and improve the effectiveness of your efforts to assess and improve student learning?
    6. In what ways do you inform the public and other stakeholders about what students are learning---and how well?

     Regional Accreditation and Assessment Organizations

     American Association of Colleges and Universities

     Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education

     Higher Learning Commission

     National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment

  • Colleague Development Days Professional Development

  • Program Assessment Plan Form

    This form is used to capture the student learning outcomes of the program, the assessment methods, benchmarks/criteria for success, and assessment cycle. It was originally due to the University Assessment Team on December 15, 2020 and should be updated when the program makes changes to any of the assessment plan components. The program must keep a copy of the plan for their records (a copy is sent via email upon form completion). The University Assessment Team will also retain a copy.  
    RESOURCE: Assessment of Student Learning Overview

    RESOURCE: Curriculum Outcomes Assessment Matrix

    RESOURCE: PDF of Blank Assessment Plan

    RESOURCE: Worksheet: Developing a Program Assessment Plan


  • Assessment Plan Rubric

    The University Assessment Team uses a rubric to review and provide feedback to program faculty regarding their Program Assessment Plans.

    Program Assessment Plan Rubric

  • Annual Assessment Report Form - Academic Programs

    This report is completed annually by all academic programs and submitted by December 15th of the year following the assessment. This document will serve as evidence of student learning. A PDF of the document will be posted to the Academic Affairs website and the program should keep a copy for their records (a copy is sent via email upon report completion). 
    Due date for Annual Assessment Report: December 15th

    RESOURCE: PDF of Blank Annual Assessment Report 

    RESOURCE: Worksheet: Annual Program Assessment Form


  • Annual Assessment Report Rubric

    The University Assessment Team uses a rubric to review and provide feedback to program faculty regarding their Annual Assessment Program Report.

    Link to Annual Assessment Report Rubric

Assessment Reports

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Assessment Terms extracted from the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment Glossary

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  • Assessment

    A participatory, iterative process that provides data institutions need on their students’ learning, engages the college and others in analyzing and using that information to confirm and improve teaching and learning, produces evidence that students are learning the outcomes the institution intended, guides colleges in making educational and institutional improvements, evaluates whether changes made improve/impact student learning, and documents the learning and institutional efforts.

  • Benchmark

    A criterion-referenced objective performance data point that can be used for the purposes of internal or external comparison. A program can use its own data as a baseline benchmark against which to compare future performance. It can also use data from another program as a benchmark.

  • Capstone Courses and Projects

    Whether they’re called “senior capstones” or some other name, these culminating experiences require students nearing the end of college to create a project that integrates and applies what they’ve learned. The project might be a research paper, a performance, a portfolio, or an exhibit of artwork. Capstones can be offered in departmental programs and in general education as well.
  • Criterion Referenced

    A test in which the results can be used to determine a student's progress toward mastery of a content area. Performance is compared to an expected level of mastery in a content area rather than to other students' scores. Such tests usually include questions based on what the student was taught and are designed to measure the student's mastery of designated objectives of an instructional program. The "criterion" is the standard of performance established as the passing score for the test. Scores have meaning in terms of what the student knows or can do, rather than how the test-taker compares to a reference or norm group.
  • Direct Assessment of Learning

    Direct assessment is when measures of learning are based on student performance or demonstrates the learning itself. Scoring performance on tests, term papers, or the execution of lab skills, would all be examples of direct assessment of learning. Direct assessment of learning can occur within a course (e.g., performance on a series of tests) or could occur across courses or years (comparing writing scores from sophomore to senior year).
  • Embedded Assessment

    A means of gathering information about student learning that is built into and a natural part of the teaching-learning process. Often uses for assessment purposes classroom assignments that are evaluated to assign students a grade. Can assess individual student performance or aggregate the information to provide information about the course or program; can be formative or summative, quantitative or qualitative.
  • Evaluation

    Both qualitative and quantitative descriptions of progress towards and attainment of project goals. Using collected information (assessments) to make informed decisions about continued instruction, programs, activities. Leads to statements of the value, worth, or merit of a program
  • Formative Assessment

    Formative assessment is often done at the beginning or during a program, thus providing the opportunity for immediate evidence for student learning in a particular course or at a particular point in a program. Classroom assessment is one of the most common formative assessment techniques. The purpose of this technique is to improve quality of student learning, leading to feedback in the developmental progression of learning. This can also lead to curricular modifications when specific courses have not met the student learning outcomes. Classroom assessment can also provide important program information when multiple sections of a course are taught because it enables programs to examine if the learning goals and objectives are met in all sections of the course. It also can improve instructional quality by engaging the faculty in the design and practice of the course goals and objectives and the course impact on the program.
  • Indirect Assessment of Learning

    Indirect assessments use perceptions, reflections or secondary evidence to make inferences about student learning. For example, surveys of employers, students’ self-assessments, and admissions to graduate schools are all indirect evidence of learning.
  • Performance-Based Assessment

    Performance-based assessment is a test of the ability to apply knowledge in a real-life setting. Assessment of the performance is done using a rubric, or analytic scoring guide to aid in objectivity.

  • Reliability

    How consistently a measure of the same phenomenon leads to the same result after multiple administrations or across multiple scorers/raters.
  • Portfolio

    A systematic and organized collection of a student's work that exhibits to others the direct evidence of a student's efforts, achievements, and progress over a period of time. The collection should involve the student in selection of its contents, and should include information about the performance criteria, the rubric or criteria for judging merit, and evidence of student self-reflection or evaluation. It should include representative work, providing a documentation of the learner's performance and a basis for evaluation of the student's progress. Portfolios may include a variety of demonstrations of learning and have been gathered in the form of a physical collection of materials, videos, CD-ROMs, reflective journals, etc.
  • Rubric

    A rubric is an evaluative tool that explicitly represents the performance expectations for an assignment or piece of work. A rubric divides the assigned work into component parts and provides clear descriptions of the characteristics of the work associated with each component, at varying levels of mastery. Rubrics can be used for a wide array of assignments: papers, projects, oral presentations, artistic performances, group projects, etc. Rubrics can be used as scoring or grading guides, to provide formative feedback to support and guide ongoing learning efforts, or both.
  • Self-Assessment

    A process in which a student engages in a systematic review of a performance, usually for the purpose of improving future performance. May involve comparison with a standard, established criteria. May involve critiquing one's own work or may be a simple description of the performance. Reflection, self-evaluation, metacognition, are related terms.
  • Student Learning Outcome Statement

    A specific description of what a student will be able to do at the end of the period during which that ability is presumed to have been acquired, and the focus of outcome assessment. (Note: some professional organizations may refer to these with different terms, such as objectives, indicators, abilities, or competencies).
  • Summative Assessment

    Summative assessment is comprehensive in nature, provides accountability and is used to check the level of learning at the end of the program. For example, if upon completion of a program students will have the knowledge to pass an accreditation test, taking the test would be summative in nature since it is based on the cumulative learning experience. Program goals and objectives often reflect the cumulative nature of the learning that takes place in a program. Thus, the program would conduct summative assessment at the end of the program to ensure students have met the program goals and objectives. Attention should be given to using various methods and measures in order to have a comprehensive plan. Ultimately, the foundation for an assessment plan is to collect summative assessment data and this type of data can stand-alone. Formative assessment data, however, can contribute to a comprehensive assessment plan by enabling faculty to identify particular points in a program to assess learning (i.e., entry into a program, before or after an internship experience, impact of specific courses, etc.) and monitor the progress being made towards achieving learning outcomes.