Assessing Student Learning in the Core and the Major

Owing to the current period of curricular revision - spurred largely by the implantation of the Silver Core Curriculum and its integration into the major - and the demands for sustained assessment of student learning, this page offers a step-by-step plan for undergraduate program assessment planning. 

As a reminder, the assessment of courses satisfying Silver Core Objectives is now mandatory, and the guidelines for such ("Core Assessment Guidelines [2015-2020]") are available at  A department offering Core courses must assess and report on these courses every five years.

Moreover, in fall 2016 the university implemented a three-point assessment model, intended to measure student learning at the introductory, mid-, and senior levels in undergraduate degree program curricula. Program assessment must be reported annually.

This model is being phased in over the next few years, according to the aligned student learning assessment schedule, which accounts for both Core and program assessments.  This schedule also features guidelines and requirements for participating departments.


For Core courses, the results of assessments of student learning are due by the eighth week of the semester following the course(s) (i.e., the results of fall assessments are due in mid-March, and the results of spring assessments are due in mid-October).

Program assessment reports are due by the end of January each year.

With these tasks in mind, this page has two ends:

  • to assist faculty in aligning simultaneous assessments for their Core courses and their program-level student learning outcomes (SLOs) and
  • to provide guidance in course-level assessment tools.

If program-level and course-level SLOs are supportive of one another and if appropriate assessment strategies are implemented in targeted courses as suggested in this document, a department may have a system by which to collect Core and program assessment data for the duration of its program review cycle. Finally, while this document is intended to provide faculty with a practical guide to developing a dual assessment plan for Core courses and their degree programs, personalized workshops aimed towards departmental curricula and needs are always encouraged. Please see the Resources page for two individuals who can such training: Russell Stone, Assistant Vice Provost of Assessment & Accreditation, and Bill Macauley, Director of the Writing Center.

This guide consists of 5 steps:

Step 1: Identify both the Specialized Knowledge and the Intellectual Skills that students will be able to demonstrate after completing your curriculum.

Step 2: Consider where Specialized Knowledge and Intellectual Skills converge in your curriculum, and identify a gateway, a mid-curriculum, and a Capstone/senior course in your curriculum.

Step 3: Review the syllabi for your gateway, mid-curriculum, and Capstone/senior courses to identify Specialized Knowledge and Individual Skills that are common both across the three points in the curriculum and in multiple sections, if offered, of the chosen courses.

Step 4: Choose tools and strategies for course assessments and have faculty teaching your gateway, mid-curriculum, and Capstone/senior courses agree on them.

Step 5: Implement your chosen course assessment tools and strategies and focus on collecting data for course and program SLOs on a rotating schedule.