College of Arts & Sciences

Dean's Office, CA&S

Learning Objective Assessment

Learning objective assessment (LOA) provides a means to examine how successfully students are meeting the learning objectives laid out by the faculty for a specific degree program. The intent of the LOA is to provide specific feedback to faculty, the CA&S Planning and Assessment Committee, the Dean and Associate Deans, and external bodies such as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and other accrediting bodies.  The goal is to provide a mechanism for continuous improvement by identifying those areas of courses and programs that are meeting their goals and objectives effectively, as well as those areas needing attention.

Within CA&S, assessment of learning objectives happens within the context of the department through which the course is offered. Each course is expected to have a series of learning goals and objectives which are described in the course course catalog. Course-level learning goals and objectives will relate back to these program-level learning goals and objectives.  Some of the goals and objectives for a specific course or series of courses will likely be drawn from the Department's list, others will probably be specific to the course(s) in question.

Each year, all degree-granting programs will be asked to formally assess at least one of their stated program learning objectives (exceptions are made for departments and programs that are conducting GEP assessments or undergoing external accreditation full-reviews including a site visit in that academic year). Given the great diversity of academic disciplines within CA&S, the procedure being followed is intended to be highly flexible and to allow for innovative approaches to be developed and used. The following represents the minimum that a formal LOA must involve:

The CA&S Assessment Program requires the following:
  • At least one learning objective must be assessed each year. This objective could be assessed within one course, multiple sections of the same course, or over several courses all of which address that particular objective in some way. The alignment analysis (curriculum map) between program-level learning objectives and courses in the program will serve as an essential guide in identifying the relvant courses.  Assessments involving multiple courses addressing the objective at different levels are encouraged since they often provide very useful information for the faculty, although they can be challenging to develop and implement.
  • Multiple means must be used in the LOA. In other words, at least two different measures must be used to determine how well students are meeting the objective. Two or more means are to be used in each course/section in which the assessment is being conducted. 
  • At least one assessment used must be direct. A direct assessment is one in which the students demonstrate specific knowledge, skills, abilities, etc. This could include course-embedded assessments such as: papers, journals, responses to exam questions, projects and other assignments that are part of the course. It can also include things outside of the formal classroom setting such as: juror critiques of a show or performance, proficiency exams such as in foreign languages, portfolios of work from multiple courses, internships, etc. 
  • Indirect assessments can also be used. These can be useful in that they have students reflect on their learning and their perceptions of their learning. Such assessments can include: student surveys, exit interviews, questions added to SUMMA, etc. This form of assessment is often helpful at getting at reasons why a course may or may be successful at helping students met a specific learning objective.
  • The individuals involved in administering the assessments (both direct and indirect) should use a common evaluation system. Often this entails a rubric or other set of guidelines that provides specific detail as to how the student's work, responses, etc should be evaluated.  Having a common evaluation system makes it much easier to incorporate the results of the assessment from different sections, to make comparisons across courses, etc. When an assessment is conducted across courses at multiple levels (i.e. introductory and upper-level courses) the expectations of student outcomes should be adjusted to reflect the level of the student and their progress through the degree program. 
  • The most important parts of conducting an LOA is the conversation that it engenders among faculty.  It is very important that all faculty within a department be involved in the process from start to finish. The decisions as to which learning objective will be assessed, what course(s) will be involved, how the assessment will proceed, etc. should be the result of a process in which all of the department's faculty participate. Similarly, it is essential that the results of the assessment be shared with and discussed among all of the faculty in the department. In this way, everyone learns from the assessment, and those faculty teaching courses that build on the objective being assessed gain a better understanding of student preparation in that area.

        The faculty member(s) responsible for that year's LOA are to submit the final report on the assessment using this form which is to be submitted electronically to the Associate Dean responsible for their division. The Associate Dean will then share the results with the Dean, the CA&S Planning and Assessment Committee and the SJU Office of Planning. Feedback to departments about the assessment may come from any of these offices or committees.