SLO:  Stands for Student Learning Outcome. A student learning outcome is what you want or expect the student to achieve, learn, and/or be able to do. “Learning outcomes are statements that describe significant and essential learning that learners have achieved, and can reliably demonstrate at the end of a course or program. In other words, learning outcomes identify what the learner will know and be able to do by the end of a course or program.” (Shirley Lesch, George Brown College) Resource

PSLO:  Stands for Program Student Learning Outcome. A PSLO describes the essential knowledge, skills, and attitudes expected of students at the completion of their academic program. Programs at Concordia typically have anywhere from three to eight learning outcomes (PSLOs). Examples of PSLOs

CORE (University) Outcomes:  A set of 11 very broad student learning outcomes (SLOs) derived from Concordia University’s Framework for Learning.  (The Framework was approved by the full faculty in 1996 to be the basis for the general education program.) These broad outcomes are what we as a faculty expect our undergraduates to achieve during their course of study for the baccalaureate degree. Please view the CORE Outcomes page on this website.

Glossary of Assessment Terms and Concepts

Assessment is the ongoing process of:

  • Establishing clear, measurable outcomes that state our expectations of student learning
  • Ensuring that students have sufficient opportunities to achieve these learning outcomes
  • Systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well student learning matches our expectations
  • Using the resulting information to understand and improve student learning (Suskie, 2009)


“An actual measurement of group performance against an established standard at defined points along the path toward the standard. Subsequent measurements of group performance use the benchmarks to measure progress toward achievement.”(MSHE, 2007)

Capstone Experience

Holistic activities that are designed to assess students’ knowledge, acquired skill and problem solving ability using concepts learned as they approach the end of their program. For example, graduating seniors demonstrate comprehensive learning in a senior project or culminating activity that integrates what is learned throughout their program.


“Specific ‘skills’ or “behaviors” that a learner can perform or demonstrate (e.g. graduates must perform at expected level of practitioner.)” (Gjerde, 2008)

Curriculum Map
Curriculum mapping is a process for documenting, identifying, and recording course content and skills that are actually taught in a classroom, school, or district over a period of time. These longitudinal data provide an overview, rather than a daily classroom perspective, of what is actually happening over the course of the school year (Jacobs, 1997a).

Curriculum maps help to align the curricular topics (what is being taught) to the sequence of instructional tasks (when the concepts are taught).  A wide range of important curricular activities are covered using curriculum mapping to

  • address the total education of the students in a building
  • create a “snapshot” of the educational activities within a course capture the content, skills, and assessments taught or administered 
  • develop a time line of instruction that contains course content that organized, visual and easily accessed and visual course content

Some important features of curriculum maps are that they emphasize interdisciplinary connections, promote of essential skills and link content information across different courses. 

Direct Assessment

Direct methods of evaluating student learning provide evidence of whether or not a student has command of a specific subject or content area; can perform a task; exhibits a particular skill; demonstrates a certain quality in his or her work… (MSHE, 2007)

Direct Evidence of Student Learning

“Direct evidence of student learning is tangible, visible, self-explanatory, and compelling evidence of exactly what students have and have not learned” (Suskie, 2009, p. 20). Direct evidence most often comes in the form of work samples created by the student.

Embedded Assessment
A means of gathering information about student learning that is integrated into the teaching-learning process. Results can be used to assess individual student performance or they can be aggregated to provide information about the course or program.  Can be formative or summative, quantitative or qualitative.  Example: as part of a course, expecting each senior to complete a research paper that is graded for content and style, but is also assessed for advanced ability to locate and evaluate Web-based information (as part of a college-wide outcome to demonstrate information literacy).


Evaluation is a broader concept than assessment. It is used to provide a judgment about the value of something         

Formative Assessment

“A process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve students’ achievement of intended instructional outcomes.”

Formative assessment has the following characteristics:

  • Frequent
  • Used to plan next steps in instruction
  • Descriptive feedback in student friendly language
  • Involves students (Arter & Chappuis, 2006)

Student Learning Goal (SLGs)

“Goals are broad outcome statements expressed as general aims or purposes of education” (Ball State University, 2008).

Goals describe how students will be different because of a learning experience.  Effective goals refer to a destination rather than a path taken to get there – the ends rather than the means, the outcome rather than the process….[For example,] A faculty member’s real goal is not that students will write a term paper but that they will become effective writers (Suskie, 2009).

Student learning goals are created at the institutional, college/school, and program levels.

Indirect Assessment

Indirect methods of evaluating student learning involve data that are related to the act of learning, such as factors that predict or mediate learning or perceptions about learning but do not reflect learning itself (MSHE, 2007).

Indirect Evidence of Student Learning

“Indirect evidence consists of proxy signs that students are probably learning. Indirect evidence is less clear and less convincing than direct evidence” (Suskie, 2009, p. 20). Indirect evidence often comes in the form of grades and surveys.

Student Learning Incomes

Learning incomes are the competencies and knowledge in place before new learning processes begin.  Students whose learning incomes are properly aligned to a course have a high rate of successfully completing the course because they have the prerequisite knowledge to build upon in the course.


Measurement is the assigning of a number to the results of a test or other kind of assessment according to a specific rule….The process of obtaining a numerical description of the degree to which an individual possesses a particular characteristic. (Miller, 2009)


A rubric is a scoring tool that explicitly represents the performance expectations for an assignment or piece of work. It provides details of what students are expected to know and do. A rubric divides the assigned work into component parts and provides clear descriptions of the characteristics of the work associated with each component, at varying levels of mastery. Rubrics can be used for a wide array of assignments: papers, projects, oral presentations, artistic performances, group projects, etc. Rubrics can be used as scoring or grading guides, to provide formative feedback to support and guide ongoing learning efforts, or both.

Standards refer to an established level of accomplishment that all students are expected to meet or exceed. Standards do not imply standardization of a program or of testing. Performance or learning standards may be met through multiple pathways and demonstrated in various ways.  For example, instruction designed to meet a standard for verbal foreign language competency may include classroom conversations, one-on-one interactions with a Teacher Assistant, or the use of computer software. Assessing competence may be done by carrying on a conversation about daily activities or a common scenario, such as eating in a restaurant, or using a standardized test, using a rubric or grading key to score correct grammar and comprehensible pronunciation.

Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

SLOs are statements describing faculty intentions about what students should know, understand, and be able to do with their knowledge when they complete a course or graduate from a program.  SLOs are what students take with them from a learning experience.  SLOs provide evidence that the student learning goals have been accomplished (Huba & Freed, 2000; Suskie 2009). These outcomes begin with an action verb and reflect the levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.

SLOs are created at the program and course levels.

Summative Assessment

Summative assessment … is designed to determine the extent to which the instructional goals have been achieved and is used primarily for assigning course grades or for certifying student mastery of the intended learning outcomes….[It] typically comes at the end of a course (or unit) of instruction. (Miller,, 2009)

Value Added
The increase in learning that occurs during a course, program, or undergraduate education. The focus can be on the individual student (how much better a student can write, for example, at the end than at the beginning) or on a cohort of students (whether senior papers demonstrate more sophisticated writing skills-in the aggregate-than freshmen papers). To measure value-added, a baseline measurement is needed for comparison. The baseline measure can be from the same sample of students (longitudinal design) or from a different sample (cross-sectional).


American Public University System. (2010). American Public University System Learning Outcomes Assessment Glossary of Terms. Retrieved from…/learning-outcomes-assessment/resources/glossary/assessment-glossary.htm

Arends, R. (2009). Learning to teach. New York: McGraw Hill

Arter, J. A., & Chappuis, J. Creating and recognizing quality rubrics. (2006). Portland, OR: Educational Testing Service.

Ball State University Assessment, 2008.

Bennett, C. K.”Promoting teacher reflection through action research: What do teachers think?” Journal of Staff Development, 1994, 15, 34-38.) New Horizons.

Gjerde, C. Power Point presentation entitled Some terminology in designing instruction. (2008, ACGME).

Huba, M. E., & Freed, J. E. Learner-centered assessment on campus: Shifting the focus from teaching to learning. (2000). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Jacobs, H. H. (1997a). Mapping the big picture: Integrating curriculum and assessment K–12.Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

McGraw-Hill. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Middle States Commission on Higher Education. (2007). Student learning assessment: Options and resources. 2nd Edition.

Middle States Commission on Higher Education. (2005). Assessing student learning and institutional effectiveness: Understanding middle states expectations.

Miller, M. D., Linn, R. L., & Gronlund, N. E. (2009). Measurement and assessment in teaching. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Suskie, L. (2009). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wilkerson, J. R. & Lang, W. S. (2007). Assessing student dispositions: Five standards-based steps to valid measurement using the DATS model. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press


Document Source: Graham Glynn,