Closing the Loop

“It is not enough to gather data about student strengths and weaknesses; you need information and hypotheses about the causes of student weaknesses.”

(Barbara Walvoord, Assessment Clear and Simple)

Now you have gathered information on how well students perform on the student learning outcomes for your program. Does this performance meet the expectations of program faculty? If so, create a banner and spread the word: Our students learn! If not, you and your colleagues need to identify and implement strategies for change. The point of assessment is to improve student learning, so:


  1. Use the data to develop plausible hypotheses about why the students did not perform as expected on this SLO. For example: Is the SLO poorly conceptualized or measured? Do the courses in which this SLO is addressed place enough emphasis on the SLO to bring about the desired level of learning? Are the pedagogical methods being used well suited for this SLO and student population? Are students entering the program with insufficient preparation? Do characteristics of the student population and the institutional context create an especially challenging learning environment for this SLO or this program?
  2. Test out your hypotheses by changing your curriculum, instruction, or service.
  3. Gather additional data on student learning to see if the changes you implemented worked.


By doing all of the above, you will have officially “closed the loop”. Take a moment to rest on your laurels, shake hands with colleagues, and enjoy a brownie… but not too long! Assessment is ongoing and cyclical. You are either about to implement some changes that will need to be assessed, or you are about to test the next SLO in your list. So, Happy Assessing!


If you need help interpreting the data that you have collected, or with any other aspect of assessment, please consider using an assessment peer consultant.