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Assessing Student Learning

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Glossary of Terms

Assessment – The process of gathering and analyzing data to determine if a program is meeting its objectives.

Assessment Plan Matrix – A chart that incorporates learning goals, a plan for measuring goals (including a standard for comparison), the results of the assessment, and a plan for how the results will be used to improve the program. Click here and here for examples.

Benchmarking – A data point of comparison that can be measured over time. Often external benchmarks are used such as peer institutions or peer programs.

Capstone Course or Experience – A course, project, or experience that integrates concepts, knowledge, and skills of an entire sequence of study in a given program such as a senior thesis.

Course-embedded Assessment – A method in which evidence of student learning outcomes for the program is obtained from assignments in particular courses in the curriculum.

Direct Assessment/Direct Evidence – Assessment that provides direct evidence of student learning such as: course papers and assignments, performances, exhibits, licensure and professional exams, standardized tests like the GRE subject tests. Click here for a list of direct and indirect assessment.

Indirect Assessment – Assessment that yields indirect evidence of student learning or perception of student learning such as: student surveys, focus groups, exit interviews, job and graduate school placement, graduation and retention rates, etc. Click here for a list of direct and indirect assessment.

Institutional Effectiveness – A model that outlines explicate learning goals, defines measurable outcomes, creates tools for assessing outcomes, and uses the resulting data to improve the program/institution.

Institutional Assessment – Assessment to determine the extent to which a college or university is achieving its mission.

Learning Opportunities – Existing aspects of an academic program that can be used to assess student learning outcomes such as: exams, capstone experiences, field experiences, internships, undergraduate research, theses and dissertations, etc.

Learning Outcomes – Specific statements determined by academic units describing what students are able to know, think, or do as a result of a given academic program. Click here for some examples.

Longitudinal Study – A longitudinal study tracks a given cohort of students over time.

Middle States – The accrediting agency that determines accreditation of the University of Pittsburgh.

Program Assessment – Assessment to determine the extent to which students in a departmental program can demonstrate the learning outcomes for the program.

Program Mission – Stated broad goals on what a program aims to provide its students.

Rubric – A set of criteria specifying the characteristics of a learning outcome and the levels of achievement in each characteristic. A rubric can be used as a tool for measuring subjective skills that can be incorporated into routine grading. Click here, here, and here for examples of grading rubrics.

Standards – Values set by individual programs that represent the expectation for a given measurable goal.

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