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Program Improvement: Assessment of Student Learning


At Cal Poly, we see assessment as an essential feature in the university's commitment to excellence through continuous improvement. It is the main avenue by which we evaluate our student's achievement of learning outcomes. Together with Academic Programs and Planning staff, specifically under the leadership of the Director of Academic Assessment, we develop and organize a comprehensive assessment plan each year that supports university, college, and department assessment projects.

As part of our Learn by Doing philosophy, we recognize that students show their mastery of a skill in various ways. We feel that is is essential to capture authentic, high-impact work that students complete in the classroom: speeches, portfolios, research-based reports, and group projects, to name a few. We collect these artifacts and evaluate them through a rubric-based assessment of various core competencies. In lower-division assessments, we work closely with the General Education program; at the upper-division level, we tend to focus on work students complete within their majors, such as their senior project.

Additionally, we rely on external assessments that compare our students' work with university students across the nation. Whenever possible, we triangulate the results of our internal, rubric-based assessments against these nationwide evaluations to have a more holistic appreciation of our students' learning. The Academic Assessment Council — which is comprised of administrators, faculty, and staff — regularly meets to evaluate the results of our assessments, especially at the university level, and to develop a plan for improvement.

We believe that assessment would not be as effective or meaningful without the participation of our faculty, and we view assessment as a key way to promote and enhance faculty professional development. Whether faculty are participating in one of our core competency assessments or in one of our assessment-related workshops, we believe that faculty are essential to all of our assessment efforts.

Core Competencies

At the center of our university-level assessment efforts is our evaluation of five core competencies: critical thinking, written communication, quantitative reasoning, oral communication, and information literacy. Diversity, Equity and Inclusive learning is the sixth core competency.  These essential skills have been identified by the WASC Senior College and University Commission — Cal Poly's accrediting body — as necessary for universities to evaluate.

We assess these skills at both lower-division and upper-division levels. Each cycle goes through a three-phase process: 1. research and development; 2. evaluation and communication; and 3. education and improvement. Whether through evidence collected in General Education (GE) or discipline-specific courses at or near graduation, the resulting data provides an important measurement of our students' learning.

For additional information, please refer to the Assessment SharePoint page, or email Julie Bettergarcia, Faculty Director of Program Improvement or Jolene Girten, Program Improvement Coordinator.

Last updated: 3/27/2024

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Academic Programs and Planning 
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Kennedy Library
  (Bldg. 35), Suite 319  
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