What is Assessment?

Over the past few decades, state and federal policy makers and the public have asked higher education to provide a culture of evidence to account for student learning. This includes instruction not only of cognitive abilities, but also personal and social responsibility skills. Learning experiences should be integrated with practices both in and out of the classroom building and reinforcing one another. Today’s media saturated students are increasingly willing to live and operate within incomplete, fragmented, and contradictory frames of reference. When students see connections between these experiences their education can potentially be profounder and more lasting.

The figure below summarizes how the process of assessment is a continuous cycle, allowing for new approaches as the cycle repeats itself. The process, if implemented correctly, can inform us about where we want students to be at the end of a course, a program, or when they graduate from Merced College, and how will we know if they got there.

Teaching and Learning Through Assessment


Source: Suskie, L. “Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide 2nd ed”, 2009.

Barr and Tagg in their article "From Teaching to Learning: A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education" pose the idea that schools provide instruction when they should produce learning.  They compare the trends and the focus at colleges  looking at a variety of key indices listed below.   The new paradigm shifts the emphasis to focus on student outcomes.   Rather than awarding a degree based on the accumulated time spent in courses, students are empowered to demonstrate they have learned the knowledge and skills to earn the degree or certificate.

Mission and Purpose

Instruction Environment

Learning Environment

  • Provide/Deliver Instruction
  • Produce Learning
  • Transfer knowledge from faculty to students through courses and programs
  • Elicit student discovery & construction of knowledge
  • Improve the quality of instruction
  • Improve the quality of learning
  • Achieve access for diverse students
  • Achieve success for diverse students

Criteria for Success

Instruction Environment

Learning Environment

  • Inputs, resources
  • Learning and student-success outcomes
  • Quality of entering students
  •  Quality of exiting students
  • Curriculum development, expansion
  •  Learning technologies development, expansion
  • Quantity and quality of resources
  •  Quantity and quality of outcomes

Teaching and Learning Structures

Instruction Environment

Learning Environment

  • Parts prior to whole
  • Whole prior to parts
  • Learning varies; time held constant
  • Learning held constant; time varies
  • 50 min lecture with 3 unit courses with Classes  that start/end at the same time
  • Learning environments that are ready when the student is
  • One lecturer, one classroom
  • Whatever learning experience works
  • Independent disciplines/departments
  • Cross discipline/department collaboration
  • Covering material
  • Specified learning results
  • End-of-course assessment
  • Pre and post assessments (during)














Assessment Reports