Gather Evidence of Student Learning

Forensics lab

How will you know that students learned?

Gather evidence of student learning


  • We can’t see learning, because it's a process. To know whether or not learning has happened, we look to the products and /or performances that learners construct (aka direct evidence of learning). 
  • Gather data that: yield valid evidence of learning; align to focal questions; and inform decision-making.

Effective outcomes assessment efforts include multiple lines of evidence that faculty can act upon to improve academic programs, provide equitable opportunities for all students to learn, and improve student learning. When considering sources of evidence, keep the following suggestions in mind:

  • Gather data that enable you to make "better or different decisions than what you might make without it" (Hubbard, 2014, as cited in Suskie, 2018, p. 150).  
  • More evidence is not necessarily better. Think quality rather than quantity. 
  • Collect evidence that aligns to the PLO(s) being assessed during the current cycle. 


A valid assessment "elicits from students the kinds of learning you want to measure" (Walvoord & Anderson, 2010, p. 14).  

Would you use a ruler to measure someone's weight? Most likely not. Similarly, it's important that the assessment data you collect provides valid evidence of student learning. Content validity refers to the degree to which an assessment instrument measures what it purports to measure. Just as a ruler yields invalid measures of weight, a test of basic vocabulary knowledge is not a valid measure of higher-order thinking skills. 


    Consider the focus for this cycle of inquiry. What are you hoping to learn? Use the program assessment plan and curriculum matrix to identify potential sources of evidence. If the guiding question pertains to students' ability to remember or understand basic facts or concepts, draw data from courses in which PLOs are Introduced. For evidence of developing capacity to apply or analyze, look to courses in which PLOs are Reinforced. For evidence of students' ability to evaluate or create, look for courses in which the PLOs are Mastered. 


    There is no one perfect assessment of learning. Therefore, "we must instead simply strive to make assessments sufficiently truthful that we will have reasonable confidence in the resulting evidence and can use it with confidence to make decisions about learning goals, curricula, and teaching strategies" (Suskie, 2018, p. 28)