Assessment of Student Learning

Assessment at St. Olaf has long been understood as “inquiry in support of student learning.” We gather systematic evidence of our students’ knowledge, proficiencies, and learning experiences, so we can sustain what is working and strengthen what needs to be improved.

We are committed to an assessment program that is:

Student-centered – Assessment helps us determine the extent to which we are realizing the educational goals we have established for our students. The St. Olaf faculty and staff have articulated goals for student learning across the entire St. Olaf experience (STOGoals) that provide a framework for our assessment efforts at the institutional level.  Intended learning outcomes for General Education and for majors, concentrations and other academic programs guide our data-gathering at the program level.

Mission-driven, meaningful, and manageable – Assessment advances the mission of the college by helping us evaluate and strengthen our work with students.  We use a variety of approaches to gathering evidence, because multiple methods are more likely to yield meaningful results. We streamline our work through a data collection schedule that cycles through different types of programs in alternate years and that engages faculty in assessing only one outcome at a time.

Faculty-governed – The assessment program is led through a partnership between the faculty Director of Evaluation and Assessment in the Office of Institutional Research and Evaluation, the elected faculty Curriculum Committee, and the Provost and Dean of the College.  The Curriculum Committee oversees the data collection schedule and makes recommendations to the Dean of the College concerning faculty engagement in program-level assessment and assessment of General Education.

Utilization-focused – Most assessment begins with the question, “Who will use the evidence that is gathered, and for what purpose?”  For example, our approach to assessing General Education was developed only after we had identified how results would be used by individual GE instructors and by departments and committees.  Similarly, departments and programs have been asked to prepare assessment action reports, rather than data reports, focused on how they plan to use findings to adjust curriculum requirements, course content, student assignments, or instructional practices.

Transparent – While St. Olaf faculty, staff, and students are the principal “users” of assessment results, we make our findings readily available to the St. Olaf Board of Regents and to the larger community as well.  The most recent findings from all our institutional-level assessment projects are publicly-accessible on the IR&E website, and the Outcomes tab on the St. Olaf home page includes links to a variety of assessment data of particular interest to prospective students and families.