The primary purpose of student outcomes assessment of academic programs at Iowa State University is to ensure that processes are in place that enable faculty members to monitor and strive to improve student success. Consistent with our land-grant mission, the university is committed to using assessment as an essential component of the continuous improvement of our institution’s learning and educational outcomes. An effective outcomes assessment and evaluation process is a critical component of a continuous improvement process. Student learning outcomes for a degree program describe the knowledge, skills, and abilities that students should acquire or achieve by the time of graduation. The improvement of students' achievement of these outcomes should be the goal of any program improvement effort.

When performed regularly and consistently, outcomes assessment and evaluation are the processes by which student achievement of learning outcomes is determined. Through a combination of direct and indirect measures, assessment collects data on student performance relative to program learning outcomes. The evaluation of these data provides direction for changes that may be needed to address shortcomings and improve student achievement of the outcomes. After changes are made, student achievement of the outcomes is re-assessed and evaluated, with additional changes implemented as needed, in an ongoing cycle.

Collectively and individually (as appropriate), assessments of general education and program-level outcomes will:

  • involve faculty at all points of the process
  • align with Iowa State University’s mission and goals
  • use multiple methods of assessment
  • evaluate results and take steps to improve student learning outcomes
  • be linked to institutional program review processes
  • include external judgment, advice, or benchmarks
  • evaluate barriers to student retention and completion

Program Assessment

Every academic program – undergraduate, graduate, professional – is required to have an active assessment plan. Program assessment plans should:

  • articulate specific program goals and measurable student learning outcomes
  • identify the courses or student experiences where the disciplinary learning takes place
  • assess one or more learning outcomes per year on an established periodic basis
  • review assessment data to determine the efficacy and impact of its curriculum in achieving the learning objectives on a continual basis.

Program Assessment Reports must be included as part of both mid-cycle reports as well as the program self-study reports completed as part of the seven year review cycle and submitted to the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost. Those reports should:

  • identify one or more program learning outcomes that were assessed within the reporting period
  • outline the types of assessments that were conducted during the defined assessment period (e.g., one direct assessment is recommended every three years)
  • document and analyze the results
  • summarize recommendations, identify opportunities for improvements (if needed), and outline recommendations and strategies for implementation.

Please see Program Assessment Resources for additional information.

University-wide Learning Outcomes:

The university-wide requirements are designed to ensure that all Iowa State University undergraduate students acquire the key skills and perspectives needed to succeed in a global society. In the Spring of 2020, the Faculty Senate approved four university-wide learning outcomes for undergraduate students. Those outcomes, which are based on existing outcome statements developed by each college, include: 

  • Communication: to communicate effectively in their field of study;
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: to demonstrate proficiency in critical thinking and problem solving as appropriate to their field of study;
  • Diversity and Global Citizenship: to be effective citizens and thrive in a culturally diverse global community;
  • Information Literacy: to be proficient in the acquisition and use of information.

Course Level Surveys

Assessment of student outcomes at the course-level occurs in three primary ways:

  • Most courses use Class Climate surveys to conduct end of semester course-evaluations from students. Many of these surveys include questions about student perception of achievement of outcomes and student learning gains.
  • All undergraduate courses enrolling 100 students or more on an annual basis must have in place a continuous improvement plan that focuses on student outcomes.
  • Individual faculty members assess student achievement as a part of the normal educational process.

Other Assessment Measures

Iowa State uses results of various survey instruments (such as the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and analyses of college and program level reporting to monitor student engagement and outcomes assessment at the university level.