FAQ-Frequently Asked Questions About Assessment


Are we required to assess?

We are required to assess student learning of the THECB core objectives of critical thinking, communication, empirical and quantitative skills, social responsibility, personal responsibility, and teamwork. SACS 3.3.1 requires the institution "identifies expected outcomes, assesses the extent to which it achieves these outcomes, and provides evidence of improvement based on analysis of the results." SACS 3.5.1 requires the institution to identify "college-level general education competencies and the extent to which graduates have attained them."


Why do we assess Student Learning Outcomes?

Assessment involves identifying the learning outcomes at course, program, and institutional levels. Assessment of these learning outcomes allows us to gather evidence to determine if students' competencies match our expectations. Assessment data guides instructional and institutional improvements to student learning.


What assessment occurs at Palo Alto College?

Palo Alto College conducts various forms of direct (measurement of actual student learning) and indirect assessment (measures perceived student learning). Direct assessment includes program assessment in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and General Education (Gen Ed) Assessment of new THECB Gen Ed competencies. Indirect assessment includes administration of the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSEE) and high risk course identification with accompanying action plans for improving student success.


Why are grades not a sufficient measure of student learning?

While grades are an important part of the picture, they provide us a composite picture of student learning rather than competencies associated with specific learning outcomes. For example, grades typically include elements of classroom behavior along with performance on tests and assignments. Some instructors also include class attendance or other behaviors in the grading decision.


What are curriculum maps?

Curriculum Maps are matrices that document the alignment of course student learning outcomes to program student learning outcomes and institutional general education outcomes. Palo Alto College has created curriculum maps for each discipline.


How is assessment data disseminated to all?

Assessment data and reports are posted on the PAC Outcomes Assessment website for all faculty and staff to see. All PAC employees are invited each spring to a college-wide meeting to hear and discuss the results. How are faculty chosen to submit General


Education Artifacts?

At the beginning of each fall semester, students who have 45 or more hours are randomly selected based on those students signed up for a course that owns the selected THECB Gen Ed competency for that assessment cycle. Faculty with these students are then asked to submit artifacts for Gen Ed assessment.


How are General Education Assessors Chosen?

Faculty are invited each fall to serve their institution as General Education Assessors. Assessors should feel comfortable using an agreed upon rubric to evaluate cross curricular artifacts.


What are the responsibilities of a General Education Assessor?

Gen Ed Assessors initially participate in Tk20 training. Assessors then attend at least one calibration session to reduce the scoring variance of artifacts that they evaluate.


How can I share my ideas about assessment at PAC?

Faculty are welcome to share ideas with either Joseph Coppola, Director of Instructional Professional Development or with members of the PAC Assessment Initiative.


Is assessment an evaluation of faculty or student competency?

Assessment is not an evaluation of faculty performance. Rather it is a measure of student learning.


Here are some resources that contain answers to additional assessment FAQs.

(Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts)

(University of Texas at Austin)

(Pennsylvania State University)

(Loyola Marymount University)

(Pomona College)

(New York University)