Institutional Plan for Assessing Student Learning

The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s institutional assessment plan provides a framework for student learning assessment. To ensure the quality of students’ experience, the university engages in ongoing, systematic and integrated efforts to better understand and improve learning. Student learning assessment is the ongoing process of:

  1. defining clear, measurable learning outcomes,
  2. ensuring that students engage in sufficient learning experiences to achieve these outcomes,
  3. gathering evidence to determine how well student learning matches our expectations, and
  4. using the results to validate or improve learning.

Principles of Assessment

UW–Madison student learning assessment efforts are guided by the following principles.

Principle 1
Assessment of student learning at UW–Madison begins with clearly stated learning outcomes (course and program).

Assessment is a process that starts with learning outcomes and asks questions that guide the gathering and interpreting of data to inform continuous improvement for student success. Assessment documents and illustrates the process of educational improvement.

Principle 2
Assessment is most effective when it reflects an understanding of learning as multidimensional, integrated and ongoing.

Learning is a complex process, and assessing learning should capture both what students know and what they can do with what they know. Learning encompasses knowledge and abilities, as well as values, attitudes and habits of mind. Assessment should reflect this complexity by incorporating a diverse array of methods that support student learning and growth. Assessment is an ongoing process that is best fostered when it entails a linked series of activities undertaken over time. The overarching goal is to monitor progress toward intended goals in a spirit of continuous improvement.

Principle 3
Assessment should be inclusive and equitable.

Inclusive and equitable assessment should ensure that tasks and procedures do not disadvantage any individual or group.

Principle 4
Assessment is iterative and stakeholder driven.

The nature and timing of feedback should be clear and transparent across courses and programs to improve student learning. Assessment is an iterative process that is informed by data empowered practices and pedagogical choices. Stakeholders are guided by multiple sources of feedback to enhance assessment practices over time.

Principle 5
Assessment requires attention to outcomes and to the experiences that lead to those outcomes.

Information about outcomes is important; where students “end up” matters greatly. To improve outcomes, it is important to know about the curricula, teaching and the kind of student effort that leads to specific outcomes. Assessment can help instructors understand the conditions that best support student learning. Assessment should be an integral part of program design and should relate directly to the program outcomes.

UW–Madison was named to the inaugural class of Excellence in Assessment designees in August 2016.

The program recognizes the institution’s commitment to the comprehensive assessment of student learning outcomes as a means to drive internal improvement and advance student success. Learn more.