Selection of assessment methods can only be accomplished after, first, clearly articulating program student learning outcomes (SLOs) and, second, ensuring that the academic program curriculum provides students with learning experiences relevant to the SLOs. Assessment methods should be directly tied to program SLOs and curriculum.

Types of Assessment Methods

Assessment methods are typically categorized as direct or indirect:
Direct methods of assessing student learning call for students to demonstrate their acquired knowledge, values, or skills. Assessment plans should incorporate at least one direct method of assessment for each specified SLO.
Indirect methods of assessing student learning measure students’ perceptions of or satisfaction with their learning experience. Indirect methods can support and contextualize direct methods of assessment.

The following assessment method inventory lists potential direct and indirect strategies to consider:

Direct Assessment Methods

Course Data

  • Objective Tests (e.g., multiple choice, true-false, fill-in-the-blank)
  • Essay Tests
  • Embedded Questions and/or Assignments
  • Other Classroom Assessment Techniques (e.g., 1-minute papers, free-writing, etc.)

Individual Projects/Performance

  • Written Products (e.g., term papers, lab reports, critiques)
  • Oral Presentations (e.g., speeches, role plays)
  • Poster Presentations
  • Structural/Situational Assessments

Summative (End of Program) Performance

  • Standardized Tests
  • Locally-Developed Exams
  • Capstone Experiences
  • Internships/Professional Applications
  • Portfolios

Collaborative Activities

  • Research and Group Projects (written and oral)
  • Online Group Activities (e.g., records of interactions in discussion forums)

Indirect Assessment Methods


  • Student Journals
  • Self-Critiques

Interviews and Surveys

  • Satisfaction Measures (e.g., seniors, alumni, employers, graduate school advisors, parents)
  • Performance Reviews (e.g., alumni, employers, graduate school advisors)
  • Exit Interviews
  • Focus Groups
  • Follow-up Alumni Interviews
  • External Reviewer Interviews (conducted by objective, external expert)

Archival Measures

  • Transcript Analysis
  • Syllabus Audit
  • Library or Resource Use Statistics

Tips for Selecting Assessment Methods

  • When selecting an assessment method, ask the following questions:
    1. Will the assessment strategy answer questions that are important and meaningful to the program?
    2. Does the strategy align with the outcome being assessed?
    3. Is the strategy feasible given available financial resources and time?
    4. Will the strategy result in useful information about the strengths and weaknesses of the program?
  • Use existing information whenever possible: Exams, assignments, or projects in key program courses can be used for program-level assessment if they are consistent across course sections and representative of program requirements.
  • Use capstone experiences or senior course assignments: These are typically common to all students completing the program and demonstrate the breadth and depth of students’ acquired knowledge and skills.
  • Strive to use multiple measures to assess each SLO: This increases confidence that the results through assessment are accurate, consistent, and replicable.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel: Take advantage of published assessment tools in your discipline, such as rubrics or surveys, as opposed to developing your own.

FAQ: Why can’t we use course grades as our program assessment method?

Course grades are useful to evaluate individual students’ performance in a course. Course grades do not demonstrate what, specifically, students have learned (or not learned) from a course and may incorporate additional criteria, such as attendance, participation, and effort, that do not directly reflect learning. Academic program assessment examines patterns of student learning across courses and requires the use of direct measures of learning to identify what students have learned (and not learned) and to drive improvements at the program level.