Indirect Measures

Indirect measures include perspectives, input, and other indicators (from students or others) that provide evidence related to program-level student learning outcomes (SLOs) (e.g., perceived gains or confidence in specific skills or knowledge, motivation, satisfaction, the availability or quality of learning opportunities, student progress, etc.). Indirect measures can provide valuable information as to why students learned or did not learn, but they don’t provide direct evidence of what students have learned.

Types of Indirect Measures

Indirect 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 indirect measures may be quantitative (numeric) or qualitative (textual). See Assessment Data Analysis for more information about quantitative and qualitative data.

Student Perspectives and Experience

Indirect MeasureDescription
Focus GroupsSmall groups of students discuss their experiences, motivation, and perspectives about aspects of their educational experience, skills, or knowledge. See our Focus Groups webpage for more information.
InterviewsOne-on-one dialog with students to discuss their experiences, motivation, and perspectives about aspects of their educational experience, skills, or knowledge.
Surveys: Student or AlumniQuestionnaires used to collect feedback from students or alumni about their educational experiences, motivations, rationales, and confidence or perceived gains in their knowledge, skills, and/or abilities. May be locally developed (e.g. a departmental senior exit survey) or a standardized instrument (e.g. the National Survey of Student Engagement). See our Student Surveys (locally developed) and National Survey of Student Engagement webpages for more information.
Student Self-assessments or ReflectionsStudent reflection or evaluation of their own performance, experience, and/or process on a work product.

Professional Perspectives and Input

Indirect MeasureDescription
Advisory BoardsProfessional input from an advisory group that provides professional feedback on the program, curricula, and/or skills and knowledge perceived as important for graduates.
Faculty Review of Curriculum, SLOs, Syllabi, or Assignment PromptsFaculty review and evaluation of where program-level SLOs are taught and developed in assignments, courses, and curricula.
Feedback from External AccreditorsFeedback from external accreditors providing professional input on the program, curricula, and/or program-level SLOs.
Internship Supervisor, Preceptor, or Employer Feedback on Student Activities, Motivation, or BehaviorFeedback from internship supervisors, preceptors, or employers about student experiences or general performance in a work setting, such as student activities, motivation or interest, and/or general professionalism or career readiness. See our Quick Guide to Internships and Other Field/Professional Experiences for Program-level Assessment (PDF) for more information.
Employer SurveysProfessional input from employers about the program and/or skills and knowledge they perceive as important for graduates.

Indicators of Student Progress / Success in the Curriculum

Indirect MeasureDescription
Course GradesCourse grades might provide information about student preparedness, bottlenecks, or student progress through the curriculum.
Enrollment DataEnrollment data (e.g. course taking patterns, retention) might provide information about the student experience, course availability or bottlenecks, student progress through the curriculum.
Graduation DataGraduation data (e.g. time to degree, job placement) might provide information about student progress or student success in the curriculum.
Participation RatesStudent participation rates in research, internship, service learning, study abroad, and other activities connected to student learning might provide information about the student experience and opportunities.

Indirect Measures Resources and Toolkits

The following resources are provided to assist programs and faculty as they choose, develop, implement, and refine indirect measures for assessing program-level SLOs as part of program-level assessment. ACE is available to collaborate with undergraduate degree programs to design indirect measures for program-level assessment; contact us for additional information.

ACE provides resources for programs on particular indirect measures:

Additional Resources and Scholarship


Montenegro, E. & Jankowski, N. (2020). A New Decade for Assessment: Embedding Equity into Assessment Praxis (PDF) (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.

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.

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