Categories of Assessment at Iowa State University

Academic Program Assessment

Program level assessment allows faculty to determine the extent to which students are achieving the program learning outcomes. To facilitate improvement of student learning and to comply with HLC accreditation standards, academic programs should develop and implement plans to assess their students’ learning. Every academic program – undergraduate, graduate, professional – is expected to have an active assessment plan.

The Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost provides resources for departments to help develop academic program learning outcomes, curriculum maps, and assessment plans. Program assessment plans should establish a process in which student progress towards achieving program learning outcomes are regularly measured and evaluated. Most importantly, the ongoing collection of assessment data enables faculty to fine-tune teaching practices, course materials, and curricula to improve student learning. In addition, the presence of a plan will help ensure that a department has the necessary data collection processes in place to complete the required Iowa Board of Regents academic program review self-study process.

Effective program assessment plans should contain these elements:

  1. Program learning outcomes that specify what students should know, be, and do upon completion of the program.
  2. A curriculum map showing where in the curriculum students will obtain the knowledge, skills, and abilities to achieve program outcomes.
  3. A plan to assess one or more learning outcome(s) per year on an established periodic basis.
  4. A data collection plan that details what evidence will be collected and when that evidence will be evaluated. At least one direct method of assessment should be included for each of the program's student learning outcomes.
  5. A statement outlining how the faculty/department will use the data to facilitate learning improvement and foster a system of continuous improvement.

Resources and templates to create academic program assessment documents are available below:

Framework to Develop Academic Program Outcomes (worksheet)
Academic Program Outcomes Form (document to submit)
Curriculum Map for an Academic Program
Curriculum Map Instructions

Undergraduate University 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, and added them to the Faculty Handbook in 2021. These university outcomes, which are based on existing outcome statements developed by each college, include: 

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

Course Level Assessment

Assessment of student outcomes at the course level occurs multiple ways and includes formal and informal approaches. It is a process of systematically examining and refining the fit between the course activities and what students should know at the end of the course. Individual faculty members assess student achievement as a part of the normal educational process and may make modifications to their pedagogical approach or assessment strategies over the course of the semester to ensure student learning. In addition to assessment associated with course assignments, end of semester surveys that include questions about student perception of achievement of outcomes and student learning gains and provide evidence of student learning.

Assessment Resources

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) can assist faculty with resources on developing measurable course objectives connected to course outcomes and assessment strategies.

For assistance in developing program assessment plans, contact


Suggested Resources:

Eggleston, T. (2020, July). Program review and assessment for continuous improvement: Asking the right questions. (Occasional Paper No. 48). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.

Fulcher, K. H., *Good, M. R., *Coleman, C. M., & *Smith, K. L. (2014, December). A simple model for learning improvement: Weigh pig, feed pig, weigh pig. (NILOA Occasional Paper). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.  

George Kuh, et al. (2015). Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher Education (Jossey-Bass).

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. (2018, March). Mapping learning: A toolkit of resources. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).

Linda Suskie. (2018). Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide. 3rd Edition (John Wiley & Sons).