Glossary of Terms

The purpose of the glossary is to establish a common language to communicate about important assessment of student learning terms within and across schools/colleges and institutional offices. In addition to promoting shared understanding, a common language provides consistency to the assessment process. 


A logical connection between the curriculum and the expected learning outcomes.


Assessment is the process of gathering and discussing information from multiple and diverse sources in order to develop a deep understanding of what students know, understand, and can do with their knowledge as a result of their educational experiences; the process culminates when assessment results are used to improve subsequent learning (Huba & Freed, 2000).

Assessment for Improvement

Assessment activities that are designed to feed the results directly, and ideally, immediately, back into revising the course, program or institution with the goal of improving student learning (Leskes, 2002).

Assessment Literacy

Knowledge about the basic principles of sound assessment practice, including terminology, the development and use of assessment methodologies and techniques, familiarity with standards of quality in assessment, and with alternatives to traditional measurements of learning.

Direct Assessments

This method involves students’ display of knowledge and skills (e.g. test results, written assignments, presentations, classroom assignments) resulting from learning experiences in the class/program (Palomba & Banta, 1999).

Embedded Assessments

Collecting data/evidence on program learning outcomes by extracting course assignments. It is a means of gathering information about student learning that is built into and a natural part of the teaching-learning process. The instructor evaluates the assignment for individual student grading purposes; the program evaluates the assignment for program assessment. When used for program assessment, typically someone other than the course instructor uses a rubric to evaluate the assignment (Leskes, 2002).

Indirect Assessments

This method involves perceptions of learning rather than actual demonstrations of outcome achievement (e.g. alumni surveys, employer surveys, exit interviews).

Institutional Assessment

Uses the institution as the level of analysis. The assessment can be quantitative or qualitative, formative or summative, standards-based or value added, and used for improvement or for accountability. Ideally, institution-wide goals and objectives would serve as a basis for the assessment.

Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

Clear and easily understood statements that describe measurable expectations of what students should be able to think, know or do when they’ve completed a given educational program and beyond.

Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

Statements that identify the knowledge, skills, or attitudes that students will be able to demonstrate, represent, or produce as a result of a given educational experience. There are three levels of learning outcomes: course, program, and institution (Leskes, 2002).

Program Assessment

Uses the department or program as the level of analysis. Can be quantitative or qualitative, formative or summative, standards-based or value added, and used for improvement or for accountability.  Ideally, program goals and objectives would serve as a basis for the assessment.


A tool often shaped like a matrix, with criteria on one side and levels of achievement across the top used to score products or performances. Rubrics describe the characteristics of different levels of performance, often from exemplary to unacceptable. The criteria are ideally explicit, objective, and consistent with expectations for student performance. Rubrics are meaningful and useful when shared with students before their work is judged so they better understand the expectations for their performance. Rubrics are most effective when coupled with benchmark student work or anchors to illustrate how the rubric is applied (Leskes, 2002).

Student Learning Outcome Assessment Plans (SLOAPs)

Document that outlines what will be measured and how and when measurement of student learning will occur. Student Learning Assessment plans usually contain the program’s mission, goals, student learning outcomes, rubrics, curriculum maps, assessment methods, results and a continuous improvement narrative.


1. Assessment Terminology for Gallaudet University: A Glossary of Useful Assessment Terms 

2. Huba, M. E., & Freed J. E. (2000). Learner-centered assessment on college campuses: Shifting the focus from teaching to learning. Boston, MA: Ally & Bacon.

3. Leskes, A. (2002). Beyond confusion: An assessment glossary. AAC&U Peer Review , 4 (2/3).

4. Palomba, C., & Banta, T. (1999). Assessment essentials: Planning, implementing, and improving assessment in higher education. San Francisco: Jossey Bass



Office of Assessment and Accreditation Support 

Shirley McGuire, PhD 
Senior Vice Provost of Academic Affairs

Deborah L. Panter, JD 
Director of Educational Effectiveness and Assessment | 415.422.4588

Kevin A. McLemore, PhD
Associate Director of Assessment | 415.422.4349

Shelly A. Helgeson, MPA
Assistant Director of Curriculum Management | 415.422.6296

Marisa C. McCarthy, MA
Project Manager | 415.422.2091