Once program faculty have established and operationalized learning outcomes for the major, the next step is to create an assessment plan that will support student attainment of those outcomes.

What are the core elements of an effective learning outcomes assessment plan?

An effective outcomes assessment plan is:

  • grounded in the alignment between core curricular offerings and expected student learning outcomes;
  • designed to generate meaningful evidence that can be readily evaluated;
  • developed so that it is both manageable in scale and scope and adaptable to support evolving program needs and interests;
  • accompanied by a timeline that helps program faculty prioritize various aspects of the assessment work and meet key target dates relative to the timing of departmental self-reviews and 8-year program reviews; and
  • endorsed by the program faculty at large as a potentially valuable mechanism for sharing insights about teaching and learning and creating processes for linking these insights with continuous program improvement.

Attending to these important sustainability considerations will serve your program well both for internal curriculum review purposes and for preparing to meet the revised 8-year program review requirements that UCLA has designed to support new federal (and corresponding WASC accreditation) expectations forproviding evidence of educational effectiveness within undergraduate education.

How do WASC outcomes assessment expectations fit UCLA’s assessment framework?

As part of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation process, UCLA has developed a tiered framework for assessing student learning and applying assessment findings that is generally applicable across UCLA’s undergraduate programs (see Table 2). Bulleted points in the left hand column of the table below are ordered such that the focus of the evaluative process moves from the level of the individual (i.e., faculty assessing student performance; students evaluating their own experiences, including the quality of faculty instruction) to the departmental level (i.e., curricular review), to the university level (i.e., Academic Senate review). For some programs, additional tiers may be included based on uniquely applicable external review processes. The right hand column contains standardized descriptions of how findings gleaned at each of the evaluative levels delineated in the left hand column are used to measure program success and facilitate educational improvement. Within this general framework, it is the third set of bullet points (bolded) that address the new WASC expectations for demonstrating educational effectiveness.

Table 2. UCLA’s Framework for Assessing Student Learning Outcomes and Using Assessment Findings

What is the process for determining that graduates have achieved stated outcomes for the degree? How are the findings used?
  • Instructor evaluates and grades each student’s performance in each course and provides feedback to the student.
  • Student reflects on program experiences and provides feedback via course evaluations and UCLA Senior Survey.
  • Program faculty evaluate the curriculum and the students’ collective performance with respect to stated learning outcomes and report their evaluation to the department. Summative assessment findings are also reported within the 8-year program review.
  • Internal and external reviewers provide feedback regarding the overall quality of the program and the experiences that relate most directly to student achievement of stated learning outcomes as part of the Academic Senate review.
  • To foster students’ academic, personal, and professional development.
  • To inform faculty members’ course development and teaching methods and to inform personnel evaluations for faculty merit and promotion.
  • To assess whether departmental/program learning outcomes are being met, to ensure continuity of performance standards, and to inform curriculum development.
  • To determine whether program quality and student performance are appropriate for an elite research university.

The template depicted in Table 2 is part of a larger “Inventory of Educational Effectiveness Indicators” exhibit that WASC requires campuses to complete for each undergraduate major as part of the accreditation review process. Sample 7.1 Exhibits  are posted for review.

The specific path your program follows in preparing to provide outcomes-based evidence of student learning depends on whether you will be using a capstone product (Path 1) or program portfolio (Path 2). Standardized, licensing, or program-developed exams provide a third set of options for producing direct evidence of student learning.

Path 1: Assessment Plan for Majors with Capstones

(Learn more about UCLA’s Capstone Initiative )

Path 2: Assessment Plan for Majors Using Program Portfolios

 Summarizing Assessment Activities for Program Review