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Northwestern University

Evaluating Student Learning

Weinberg College departments and programs proposing new majors or minors, or changes to existing majors or minors, must present learning goals for their students and a plan for assessing the degree to which each goal is met. A key part of this process is identifying ways to find out what your students have learned—what they know, what they think, what they can do. Assessment plans will generally include two types of approaches:
  • Direct measures allow students to directly demonstrate knowledge, capabilities, and ways of thinking related to the learning goals.
  • Indirect measures get at this information in other ways. For example, you can gain insights on what students may now know and be able to do by asking them to reflect on their experiences. Surveys of alumni are another approach. Or, you can look at the content of your courses, and the patterns of courses your students take, noting connections with the learning goals. Faculty members, research mentors, and employers can provide helpful observations as well.

Some types of direct measures

Examples from recent proposals

Some types of indirect measures

Examples from recent proposals

An entertaining and informative assessment plan combining direct and indirect measures linked to learning goals  

More information

Many colleges and universities provide information on strategies for assessing majors and minors. Some examples:

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