Direct & Indirect Evidence

What data do you need?

Gather direct and indirect evidence of learning


  • Direct evidence is tangible, observable, and self-explanatory. Collect multiple lines of direct evidence of student learning for each PLO being assessed.
  • Indirect evidence adds contextual information about student learning, but alone is insufficient for outcomes assessment.  

Assessment Cycle Image - Gather DataThe types of evidence used in learning outcomes assessment are characterized as direct or indirect. To make supportable claims about program effectiveness and student learning, gather and analyze for multiple lines of direct evidence, complemented by relevant lines of indirect evidence. 


Direct evidence of student learning is: tangible, observable, and self-explanatory. In other words, direct evidence of learning indicates what students can demonstrate, as well as the degree to which students have moved toward mastery of faculty-identified expectations. 

Sources of direct evidence:

Senior-level work

  • art exhibitions
  • (e)Porftolios
  • design project presentations
  • musical compositions and / or performances
  • engineering design plan
  • marketing plans
  • website designs
  • scholarly paper(s)
  • theses


  • Constructed-responses from exams or quizzes aligned to specific PLOs
  • Open-responses from exams or quizzes aligned to specific PLOs
  • Lab reports, problem sets, oral presentations, and / or simulations
  • Case study write-ups, lab reports, papers, oral presentations, debates
  • Critiques, reviews of journal articles, problem sets, product reviews


Provides useful insight and contextual information to support inferences about student learning. Indirect evidence alone is insufficient to support conclusions about or recommendations for program effectiveness or student learning.

Sources of indirect evidence:

  • Self-reports of students’ perceptions of their own learning (e.g., program exit surveys)
  • Program and/or campus data (e.g., Recent Baccalaureate and / or University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey results).