Measuring Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

Using Direct and Indirect Measures to Assess Student Learning Outcomes

Direct Measures

  • Demonstrate student learning of knowledge or skill 
  • Data is based on assessment of the work students complete/perform
  • Attainment of the outcome is obvious, not inferred
  • Examples: fixed-item questions (e.g., multiple-choice), writing samples, portfolio artifacts, capstone projects, presentations, performances, measurements of growth over time
  • When to use: 
    • conducting course-embedded assessment
    • conducting assessment of curricular program learning outcomes

Indirect Measures

  • Capture insights regarding learning processes or perceptions of student learning
  • Data may be provided by students or those who work with students
  • Attainment of the outcome is inferred
  • Examples: surveys, interviews, focus groups, academic records (e.g., course grades, curricular plans, average GPA, observation records, participation in academic or co-curricular experiences, placement rates)
  • When to use: 
    • supplementing direct measures,
    • providing evidence of subsequent success, satisfaction, and value added, 
    • obtaining information based on the stakeholders' perspectives, and/or
    • providing evidence for the validity of student competencies or student attainment