Documenting the Beneficial Effects of Student Engagement: Assessing Student Learning Outcomes

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Assessment is a broad topic in higher education, and often used for program review, outcomes assessment, or institutional accreditation. To narrow the focus to student learning, Walvoord (2004) defined assessment as “the systematic collection of information about student learning, using the time, knowledge, expertise, and resources available, in order to inform decisions about how to improve learning” (p. 2; italics in original). Readers should consider assessment as a specialized area of research which seeks to measure of student learning. Assessment is more akin to action research, where the purpose of the research is to inform and improve self-practice. The typical steps in action research are to plan, act, observe, and reflect. In Figure 1, see how action research maps onto a systematic approach to assessing student outcomes (Suskie, 2009).

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