Assessing Student Learning

Planning Assessment in a Course

Assessment and learning go hand-in-hand: students learn best by practicing and getting regular feedback, and practicing again. Sound assessment practices are key to making your course grades represent significant, rigorous learning. This worksheet guides you in planning your course with student learning foremost in your mind: Promoting Student Learning through Effective Course and Syllabus Design.

Various tools can be used to gather information on how well students are learning.  College courses tend to privilege essays, exams, and final projects.  Increasingly, faculty at Duquesne are using community based learning, and they often examine such learning through rigorous, reflective writing assignments and  projects.  To learn more about writing effective learning assignments and grading them well (and efficiently!), contact CTE.

Rubrics to Promote and Assess Student Learning, an Online Hands-on WorkshopClick here to enter (must use multipass).

Presentations & Publications Related to Student Learning Assessment
Duquesne University faculty and staff regularly do conference presentations and publish articles relevant to student learning outcomes assessment. If you have relevant citations to add, please contact us at

Selected Resources on Assessment for Courses & Programs

Overview of recent books on the assessment of learning
CTE has many books on learning assessment available for loan.  This chart indicates what areas of assessment each book addresses: course, program, or university wide level.

Books and CDs listed here available for loan from the Center for Teaching Excellence/Gumberg Library special collection.

  • Academic Learning Outcomes Assessment Committee & Center for Teaching Excellence, Duquesne University.  (May 2009).  Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Workshop.  Overview of program level assessment at Duquesne.
  • Center for Teaching Excellence, Duquesne University. (November 2009). Taking a look at grade inflation and academic standards.  Resources and notes from faculty discussion.
  • Fink, L. D.  (2005). Self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning.
  • This  workbook introduces all the key ideas from the 2003 book and then has a worksheet for users to apply that idea to one of their own courses.
  • Fink, L. D.  (2003). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.  Commonly, faculty have relied on Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive learning goals.  Fink has created a new taxonomy which includes six primary areas: foundational knowledge, application, integration, human dimension, caring, and learning how to learn.  See particularly pages 74-81 on how to formulate learning goals.
  • Huba, M. E., & Freed, J. E.  (2000).  Learner-centered assessment on college campuses: Shifting the focus from teaching to learning.  Boston: Allyn and Bacon.  A thorough handbook written by faculty for faculty who seek to integrate a learner-centered assessment approach into their teaching.  Useful charts, practical examples from various institutions, and helpful teaching/assessment ideas.  Useful both for course and program level.
  • Huitt, W. (2004). Bloom et al.'s taxonomy of the cognitive domain. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved May 16, 2009, from  Provides a brief overview of the taxonomy of cognitive learning outcomes, with examples.
  • Maki, P.  (2004).  Assessing for learning: Building a sustainable commitment across the institution.  American Association for Higher Education & Stylus: Sterling, VA.   Provides a useful framework from an institutional perspective.  Helpful worksheets and charts.
  • Stassen, M.  (2001).  Program-based review and program assessment.  Office of Academic Planning and Assessment, University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 
  • Faculty find this book to be clear and extremely useful in understanding assessment.  It’s brief, simple and practical, with examples to demonstrate each component of assessment planning.  Available online in its entirety.
  • Suskie, L.  (2009). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide (2nd Ed.).  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.   This valuable resource has four parts: understanding assessment, planning for assessment success, the assessment toolbox, and understanding and using assessment results.
  • Suskie, Linda.  (2008).  Assessing Student Learning.  CDs available on loan for the 3-Part Audio Online Seminar Series.
  • Walvoord, B. E.  (2004).  Assessment clear and simple.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.  This is an immensely practical book, filled with examples, templates, and permission to copy freely (with citation) for professional development purposes.  It includes sections addressed to institution-wide planners, those responsible for assessing student learning in departments and programs, as well as those assessing general education
  • Walvoord, B. E., & Anderson, V. J.  (2010).  Effective grading: A tool for learning and assessment (2nd. Ed.).  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.  This book provides practical tips and tools for both grading at the course level and examining learning across the curriculum of an academic program.   There is a lengthy discussion and many examples of rubrics.  Also, chapters 6 & 7 are excellent on managing one’s time and grading efficiently so that students truly learn.

More online resources