Criteria

Setting Benchmarks or Standards for Student Learning Outcomes

Assessment plans should specify a results-oriented standard or benchmark related to each method that indicates the minimum acceptable level of student performance.

There are two general methods of setting performance standards or benchmarks:

  1. Student performance in the academic program can be compared to past levels of performance or to a different or broader group of students. Example benchmarks and questions to consider include the following:
    • Internal Peer Benchmark: How do our students compare to others within UTSA?
    • External Peer Benchmark: How do our students compare with those of other universities that are similar to UTSA?
    • Best Practices Benchmark: How do our students compare to the best of their peers?
    • Value-Added Benchmark: Are our students improving?
    • Historical Trends Benchmark: Is our program improving?
  2. Students in the academic program can be compared to a specific level of performance. Examples levels and questions to consider include the following:
    • Local Standards: Are students meeting our own standards?
    • External Standards: Are students meeting standards set by someone else?

Guidelines to inform benchmark or standard selection:

  • Consider how the assessment results will be used: If the purpose of assessment is to improve the academic program, the standard for success for the SLO should be set relatively high.
  • Consider the consequences of setting the bar too high or too low: If the bar is set too high, the program may not have the resources available to address all of the identified areas needing improvement. If the bar is set too low, students may graduate the program without acquiring key competencies.
  • Consult external sources: Professional standards, potential employers, alumni, peer programs, etc. can all be used to set and justify program standards and benchmarks.
  • Set performance levels that represent minimal competence for each dimension on a rubric: Program faculty may have higher expectations for some aspects of an assignment (e.g., grammar and word choice on a research paper) than for others (e.g., effectively integrating information from primary research sources).
  • Consider previous assessment results: If student performance has historically been far below the program’s desired benchmark, adjust standards in the short-term to focus on continuous improvement towards the desired, more aggressive benchmark.