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Core Competency Assessment


Cal Poly's university-wide assessment efforts are centered on five core competencies, which have been defined by our accrediting body the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). Each competency goes through a three-phase cycle of research, evaluation, and improvement for both lower-division and upper-division evaluations. Whether through evidence collected in General Education (GE) or discipline-specific courses, the resulting data provide an important measurement of our students' learning.


Critical Thinking Core Competency

The initial assessment of critical thinking at Cal Poly in Spring Quarter 2013 launched the overarching methodology for our core competency assessments. Beginning with the establishment of a faculty learning community comprised of members from across disciplines, the community was charged with defining what critical thinking means at Cal Poly and then with designing an analytic, five-trait rubric for the assessment. More information, including the latest critical thinking assessment report, can be found here.






Information Literacy Core Competency

The formation of the Information Literacy Learning Community started with a small group that included individuals from Academic Programs & Planning (APP), Kennedy Library, and interested program faculty from Statistics, Kinesiology, and English in winter quarter 2017. For the first time, this assessment included artifacts from all six of the colleges, an achievement that shows the evolution of campus engagement with assessment. The artifact evaluation occurred between February and March 2019. More details about the information literacy assessment can be found here.




Oral Communication Core Competency

The oral communication assessment was a yearlong project that had two phases: the first was focused on assessing lower-level GE courses with the second dedicated to upper-division courses found in multiple colleges. Using a 21-item rubric measuring seven oral communication skill areas (verbal delivery, non-verbal delivery, organization, content, language use, and visual aids), 196 artifacts were coded and analyzed, 100 from lower-division GE courses and 96 from upper-division courses. More information, including the oral communications latest report, can be found here.





Quantitative Reasoning Core Competency

The quantitative reasoning (QR) assessment began with work completed by the QR Learning Community in 2015-16.  The community, comprised of faculty members representing each college on campus, developed a working definition of QR as “the ability to make (or critique) a persuasive argument about a real-world or discipline-specific problem based on numerical evidence.” Based on this definition, the community developed a rubric with four traits: (1) Problem Identification; (2) Quantitative Analysis; (3) Visual Presentation and; (4) Oral/Written Communication. More information, including the results from the quantitative reasoning assessment, can be found here.   





Written Communication Core Competency

The goal for the written communication assessment was to articulate a pathway for university-wide writing assessment that yields valid and reliable data that can be used to enhance the learning experience for students and that fosters meaningful professional development for faculty across the university, especially those who teach writing-intensive courses in GE and/or major programs. The 2014-2017 writing assessment project, coordinated across grade levels, sought to articulate the various ways that students develop as writers while at Cal Poly, thereby serving as the first step in the establishment of writing benchmarks on campus. More information, including the latest written communication assessment report, can be found here.




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In addition to the five required WSCUC core competencies, Cal Poly is committed to measuring learning on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as a sixth core competency for all of our students. As such, the Academic Assessment Council (AAC) voted to adopt learning and experiences related to DEI as a competency to be assessed at the university level as a part of the university's overall assessment program. An initial look at this core competency consisted of a student survey focused on the university’s Diversity Learning Objectives (DLOs). In this survey questions were asked about students’ perspective on their level of knowledge on each DLO, where they thought they gained that information, and additionally asked for specific examples of knowledge they had gained in each objective area.

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