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Once program goals and learning outcomes have been established and mapped to courses, the next step is to measure student learning.

Direct and Indirect

There are two ways to measure student learning: direct and indirect. Note that in assessment literature, the word measure may be interchangeable with method or technique, etc.

Direct measure is one that uses evidence of actual student work in which knowledge, skills, and abilities are displayed. For example, a capstone course final paper demonstrates the knowledge and skills acquired by the student.

Indirect measure uses the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions on learning rather than displaying learning itself. For example, an exit survey that asks for students to reflect on the program is assessing what the students thought about the program thus it is an indirect measure. Indirect measures should not be used as the sole measure since it does not directly demonstrate evidence of learning.

Note that the choice of a specific type of measure to use depends solely on the program level student learning outcome being assessed.

Examples of Direct and Indirect Measures for Program Level Assessment:

Direct Indirect
Capstone projects, senior theses, exhibits or performances Focus group /interviews with students, faculty members, or employers
Pass rates/scores on standardized tests, licensure, certification exams or subject area tests Registration or course enrollment information
Student publications, conference presentations Student/Alumni/Employer satisfaction surveys and evaluations at the end of a course/program
Employer and internship/fieldwork supervisor ratings of students' performance Course grades, assignment grades (if not accompanied by rubric/scoring guide)
Portfolios/eportfolios of student work Record of student or alumni awards, honors and scholarships earned
Major written pieces of student work and performances scored using a rubric from capstone courses or a major program course  
Artifacts from final examinations, multiple choice or essay exams from crucial program courses that contain program-level learning outcome elements  


  • Student Learning Assessment (Options and Resources) Middle States Commission on Higher Education 2007.
  • Suskie, Linda (2009) Examples of Evidence of Student Learning, derived from MSCHE publications site.
  • Palomba, C. A., and Banta, T. W. (1999). Assessment essentials: Planning, implementing and improving assessment in higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.