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Introduction to Assessment

What is Assessment?

Assessment is the systematic process of evaluating and measuring student performance in each of the knowledge areas outlined in the Program Learning Outcomes. Through reporting and analyzing student achievement, assessment can help identify strengths of the program as well as areas for continuous improvement.

Learning outcomes in all programs and schools at Pepperdine University are aligned with the mission and vision of the University and are the standards by which student learning is assessed. The Graziadio School has four levels or dimensions of learning outcomes

  1. At the highest level are the Institutional Learning Outcomes which are defined within the framework of the core commitments of the University (knowledge and scholarship, faith and heritage, community and global understanding) and the institutional values (purpose, service, and leadership).
  2. Within each program there are broadly defined Program Learning Goals (Effective communicators? Team oriented? Globally-minded?).
  3. Each Program Learning Goal is further specified as one or more measurable Program Learning Objective (also known as Program Learning Outcomes). These outcomes identify how students will demonstrate their knowledge and the functions that they are able to carry out..
  4. Finally, each course has Student Learning Outcomes which should align with one or more of the Program Learning Objectives and should clearly be stated in the course syllabus. Specific assignments from a course are used to assess the program learning outcomes. For example, a final presentation will be used to assess the oral communication Program Learning Objective.

Direct vs Indirect Assessment

Indirect Evidence

Perceptions and Input
(Data is a reflection of knowledge, behavior, or thought process)

Direct Evidence

Products of Student Learning

(Data displays student knowledge, behavior, or thought process)

  • Student satisfaction surveys
  • Student exit surveys
  • Alumni surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Exit interviews with graduates
  • Student work samples
  • Portfolios
  • Capstone projects
  • Case Analysis
  • Observations of student behavior


Purpose of Assessment

Educating students for successful careers requires an understanding of the knowledge and skills necessary for students to learn and how students acquire these skills. By consistently monitoring student performance through assessment, faculty can effectively evaluate and tune the program curriculum and learning experiences so that students are able to achieve the learning expectations for each program learning outcome.

Assessment is also an important part of curriculum change, and is used as evidence in curriculum change proposals to support curriculum revitalization or new program additions. Each program learning outcome should have substantial assessment and this evidence should show why a particular curriculum change measure is needed.

By using assessment data to improve our programs, with time, it is useful to also see whether the implemented curriculum changes were successful in a given program. The most constructive way to analyze this is to look again at assessment data. By analyzing whether students, post-curriculum change, are more often meeting or exceeding expectations, it is easy to determine whether the curriculum change was effective. This cycle is called continuous improvement, and allows the school to hold itself accountable for improving student learning by using its own evidence.