Recognizing the unexpected move to distance education means a disrupted and stressful semester, with substantial challenges to teaching and learning, this message offers guidance on undergraduate program assessment activities and flexible approaches to gather useful information, including how to set assessment priorities in the coming weeks. ATL developed this guidance in consultation with Vice Provost Mary Wack and the Associate Deans overseeing undergraduate program assessment, informed by national discussions.

We suggest programs consider the following recommendations, focusing on assessment activities that will be most useful to the program and its faculty, and help inform adjustments to future course offerings (use the links below to jump to a specific recommendation.)

We appreciate all that faculty, advisors, and staff are doing to deliver courses and support students, and are glad to discuss these suggestions to help determine what will serve each program. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.


#1 – Revisit your program’s assessment plan for this semester and prioritize assessing senior majors

Well-established senior-level assessment measures (direct and/or indirect).  Where possible, consider continuing to collect senior-level data about student learning (assessment of student work) or the student experience (especially a senior exit survey), making adjustments as needed to fit the current context, such as:

  • Consider prioritizing assessment of the most important learning outcomes for the program.
    • In some courses, where syllabus revisions substantially changed assignments, activities, instruction or grading, it may not be possible to collect the regular assessment data for a particular learning outcome (i.e., the oral presentation was dropped so oral communication cannot be assessed).
  • Where instructors are assessing senior-level student work in their own courses for program assessment, consider adding a question to the rubric or data collection tool about the impacts spring changes had on student learning or assessment, for example:
    • “In the context of the COVID-19 outbreak, please briefly describe any substantial changes to assignments, learning activities, instruction, or grading that may have impacted student achievement of program learning outcomes (or your ability to assess student achievement) this semester.”
  • On an existing senior exit survey, consider adding a question or two about student perspectives and/or experiences this semester, for example:
    • In the context of the COVID-19 outbreak, please briefly describe any substantial changes to courses, instruction, or grading that impacted your learning this semester or your experience as a major.”
  • FYI — At this time, [CAPS] Capstone Course Assessment Reporting for UCORE will continue as planned this semester, with an added question for instructors about impacts of spring changes on student learning or assessment.

New senior-level direct assessment measures.  Consider holding off on collecting a new senior-level direct measure for the first time this semester, as the current environment may not provide a valid context to collect a new measure of learning outcomes achievement.

  • Where possible, continue to develop or test a new rubric or tool already in progress (e.g. to collect feedback about the rubric, learning outcomes, assessment process), but we do not suggest using a new rubric or tool to collect senior learning achievement data for the first time this semester.
#2 – Consider conducting alternative formative assessment activities, to help gauge the impacts of this semester on teaching, learning, and curricula

Faculty perspectives.  Consider gathering input from faculty about student learning in their spring courses at key points in the curriculum, providing valuable qualitative assessment. It may be useful to have discussions or collect information from faculty about changes to syllabi, assignments, and student learning.

  • Ask instructors to reflect on impacts to student learning this term, especially those impacts with implications for subsequent courses for majors. See our sample reflective questions (downloadable Word document).
    • Faculty could discuss these questions at a meeting in May OR faculty responses could be collected asynchronously at the end of the semester and compiled for later discussion. It may also be useful to include advisors in discussions.
    • Programs could use this information to inform decisions about potential adjustments to courses taught in upcoming semesters.
    • These activities can be included 2020 Undergraduate Program Assessment Reports.

Student perspectives Consider simple ways to gather input from students about their learning and experiences in courses at key points in the curriculum, providing qualitative assessment data.

  • Gather student perspectives on how course changes impacted their learning and/or the extent to which they feel prepared for the next course in a series (if applicable). Instructors could ask a few questions, using a polling tool they’re already using in class. (e.g., Top Hat, Blackboard, etc.). See our sample reflective questions (downloadable Word document).
  • Course evaluations may provide some information. Please note that the provost’s office and college leadership are discussing possible adjustments to this semester’s course evaluations.
#3 – At the end of the semester, briefly note the status of any program assessment activities
  • Assessment plan: Update your assessment plan, as needed, to reflect changes to program assessment this spring.
  • Assessment archive: Ensure the program’s assessment archive is up to date, adding any useful documentation.
  • Transition planning: In instances where there are transitions in the assessment coordinator role, find an opportunity for current assessment coordinators to talk with their successors, if possible, about assessment activities and plans. Be sure to share access to the assessment archive.
  • Other activities: Where possible, wrap up other assessment activities currently in progress or make note of where to pick up again in the fall.
Additional considerations
  • Assessment data collected this semester will be “noisy,” given all the disruptions.
  • Programs can nonetheless use assessment – especially input from faculty and students about their experiences and the impacts on learning — to help inform adjustments instructors make to future course offerings, as the impacts of this spring play out in upcoming semesters.