Indirect Assessment Methods

Curriculum Mapping

This is a tool that we requested that all departments use because it is so important for knowing at which courses a department should make changes if it finds that a learning goal is not being successfully met. It also helps departments to identify courses in which to conduct the direct assessment of student work that meets a particular learning goal.  Additionally, it can be informative it leads to the realization that something that a department deems important is not being addressed adequately in the curriculum.  Biology used this process early on, in conjunction with transcript analysis (see below) to understand whether students were moving through the major in a way that exposed them adequately to courses that addressed each learning goal. Anthropology has combined mapping with other assessment tools.  Performance and Communication Arts, Sociology have also used mapping as part of their assessment efforts.


Departments have used surveys of either current students or alumni in order to gather indirect evidence.  The Anthropology Department has used surveys of sophomores, juniors, and seniors to ask whether they feel that they have met each of the department’s ten learning goals.  Similarly, Environmental Studies and Sociology do a survey each year with seniors.  The Anthropology experience suggests that such survey data is most useful if it is done by all majors and if the department has also mapped its learning goals onto the curriculum, since this combination allows the department to know what goals students should meet given their progress through the major and provides a more precise way of making adjustments if students do not feel that they are mastering goals.

There is also survey data from national surveys that may provide significant insights into student learning.  For example, we have used the Global Perspectives Inventory to assess diversity learning in abroad programs.  Though we were not trying to use it as part of departmental assessment, we believe that it is useful for MLL, Global Studies, Anthropology, and other majors that have defined as goals increased understanding of human diversity and cultures.

Transcript Analysis

Transcript analysis can very useful for majors where students have a fair amount of choice in how they complete their major.  When combined with mapping, as it was by Biology, it can be a useful tool for identifying the frequency with which students take courses that meet particular learning goals. Again, a follow-up study could then explore how effectively courses that are taken by large numbers of students to meet a particular goal or goals are actually teaching the content or skills necessary to achieve the goal.

Program Review

The Physics Department used an American Association of Physics Teachers document as a guide for assessing their program.  This sort of internal self-study can be beneficial.  Geology has asked that the Dean’s Office fund an external review after completing a more formal self-study.  Though we do not mandate regular program reviews, this is an option that departments might consider when planning significant curricular changes.

Assessment of non-course parts of a curriculum

The Music Department was concerned by the fact that many of their students participate in ensembles that were not evaluated.  They developed an evaluation instrument that work for these experiences.  Though a significant portion of this instrument evaluates instruction, there is a question that aska students to reflect in how the experience helped them to develop as a musician.  The Sociology Department senior survey also asks students to evaluate how the experiential parts of the curriculum contributed to their major.