Step 3: Make Assessment Plan

After mapping your PLOs to your courses (Step 2), your next task is to develop a long-term plan for assessing each PLO. While designing this plan, it is important to specify three important aspects: which PLO(s) you will assess each academic year, who (which students/courses) will be assessed, and how you will assess them. We have some suggestions for each of these aspects below:


Which PLO(s) should we assess?

It is up to you which PLOs you would like to assess and when. However, we suggest that you focus on 1 to 2 (maximum) PLOs each year, as PLOs are typically complex and multifaceted. Most academic programs rotate through a regular sequence of PLO assessment (e.g., Year 1: PLOs 1 & 3, Year 2: PLOs 2 & 5, Year 3: PLO 4).

If you’re just starting out with assessment, we suggest that you select PLOs that you are especially curious about!


Which students/courses should be assessed?

This is where the curriculum matrix comes in handy. Ideally, it would be best to select assignments in courses where students have had ample practice with the PLO and are being asked to demonstrate their mastery of the skill. Senior seminar papers or capstone projects are often a good place to start.

Remember that the goal is to assess student learning across the entire program. For this reason, it is best to include student work from multiple courses and sections, if possible. At the same time, students’ work in these courses must be comparable enough to be measured by the same rubric (see Step 4).


How should we assess the PLO(s)?

There are multiple ways to assess the extent to which students are meeting PLOs. The two main lines of evidence are: Direct evidence (faculty assessment of students’ skills) and Indirect evidence (student self-assessment of their skills). We generally recommend collecting both types of evidence, as they provide different types of insight regarding student achievement of PLOs.

To collect direct evidence of students’ skills, faculty assess student work (e.g., lab report, research paper, final project, presentation) and determine the extent to which each product demonstrates mastery of the various facets of the PLO. For example, results from direct evidence might look like this: “87% of graduating seniors met faculty expectations in selecting relevant sources, but only 64% met faculty expectations in analyzing/synthesizing sources.”

To collect indirect evidence of students’ skills, students rate their own skills relevant to the PLO via a survey. This type of evidence is most useful when the survey questions are tailored to the specific facets of the PLO. For example, results from indirect evidence might look like this: “79% of graduating seniors reported excellent/very good skills in selecting relevant sources, and 72% reported excellent/very good skills in analyzing/synthesizing sources.”






Once you have finished making your assessment plan, your next step is to design your measurement tools (Step 4).