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Office of Assessment for Curricular Effectiveness Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement

Direct Measures

A direct measure is an assessment of students’ performances or work products (by faculty or other professionals) that provides demonstrated evidence of student learning on skills and knowledge identified in program-level student learning outcomes (SLOs). In this way, direct measures reveal what students have learned and to what extent. A direct measure may be designed to assess each individual student or major in the program, or a direct measure may investigate the performance of a representative sample of students, as fits the program size and context. Regardless of the approach, direct measures can help programs gain insight into the achievement of program-level SLOs and the effectiveness of the curriculum.

Types of Direct Measures

Direct measures come in many forms and may vary to best meet the needs of the program. WSU encourages programs to choose measures that provide useful information to their faculty and fit with disciplinary expectations. Data from direct measures may be quantitative (numeric) or qualitative (textual). See Assessment Data Analysis for more information about quantitative and qualitative data.

Direct MeasureDescription
Course Embedded AssignmentsStudents complete course assignments that are directly related to specific program-level SLOs as a regular part of the course, and instructors grade the assignments for the course grade. In addition, the assignments are evaluated using criteria or a scoring rubric by the instructor and/or other program faculty and summarized for program-level assessment.
Types of assignments may include papers, presentations, posters, capstone or other culminating projects, portfolios (i.e. a collection of student work), performances, exhibitions, etc.
Course Embedded ExamsAs part of a course, students take tests/exams that include questions directly aligned with program-level SLOs. The test/exam results are included in the course grade, and scores for questions aligned with specific program-level SLOs are summarized for program-level assessment. For exams with open-ended (e.g., essay-type) questions, responses may be evaluated using criteria or a scoring rubric by the instructor and/or other program faculty and summarized for program-level assessment.
Internship Supervisor, Preceptor, or Employer Evaluation of Students' Skills and KnowledgeTypically an evaluation of student performance aligned with specific program-level SLOs in a work setting. May include a survey, rubric, checklist, or other way to gather information about specific program-level SLOs.
National ExamsStudents take tests/exams that include questions directly aligned with specific program-level SLOs that are administered, scored, and interpreted in a standardized manner; often commercially developed and administered to many (e.g., across the nation). For program-level assessment, the test/exam results aligned with program-level SLOs are summarized.
Types of national exams may include professional certification exams, concept inventories, etc.
Overall Evaluation of Students’ Skills and Knowledge by Faculty or Other ProfessionalsTypically an overall holistic assessment of student performance on specific program-level SLOs that isn't based solely on a course assignment; often a qualitative measure, using faculty or professional expert judgement.

Direct Measures Toolkit

The resources below are intended to help departments and programs as they choose, develop, implement, and refine direct measures for assessing student performance on program-level SLOs. ACE is available to collaborate with undergraduate degree programs to design rubrics or other tools to measure program-level SLOs; contact us for additional information.

Sort by Topic, Type, Author, or Title to find what you need.

Choosing MeasuresQuick GuideWright, B.Assessment Methods: A Close-Up LookPDF resource with advantages and challenges of various direct measures and commentary on effective measures
Choosing MeasuresExamplesVarious WSU ProgramsWSU Examples of Senior-level Direct MeasuresWebpage featuring a selected sample of senior-level direct measures from WSU programs in various disciplines
RubricsExamplesAssociation of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U)VALUE RubricsWebpage with information about the AAC&U VALUE rubrics that address 16 skill areas and may be adapted for specific program needs; Contact ACE for more information
NormingQuick GuideACE - WSUQuick Guide to Norming on Student Work for Program-level AssessmentPDF resource offering a general approach for norming faculty who will be scoring student work for program-level assessment
SamplingQuick GuideACE - WSUQuick Guide to Sample Sizes, Sampling, & Representation for Program AssessmentPDF resource offering sampling strategies and tips for determining sampling size and representation with examples
Data StewardshipQuick GuideACE - WSUAssessment Data Stewardship: Tips for Academic ProgramsPDF resource with data stewardship tips for those collecting and managing degree program assessment data that align with WSU’s Executive Policy #8

Additional Resources and Scholarship


Hutchings, P. (2010). Opening Doors to Faculty Involvement in Assessment (Occasional Paper #4). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).

Montenegro, E. & Jankowski, N. (2020). A New Decade for Assessment: Embedding Equity into Assessment Praxis (Occasional Paper No. 42). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).


Note: Please contact ACE to borrow a book.

Barkley, E. & Major, C. (2016). Learning Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Suskie, L. (2018). Part 4: The assessment toolbox. In Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Suskie, L. Blog posts categorized ‘How to Assess’, A Common Sense Approach to Assessment in Higher Education Blog. Available at:

University of Hawaii at Manoa Assessment and Curriculum Support Center. How To: Choose a Method to Collect Data or Evidence Website.