WCC logo

Curriculum & Assessment

Assessment and its Importance

Assessment of student academic achievement is the process of evaluating whether students are learning what we say they are learning. More specifically, assessment is the systematic collection, review, and use of information to increase students' learning and development. Through a variety of measures, students are assessed to determine whether or not they are achieving the learning outcomes that faculty have determined for their courses and programs.

Assessment is important for several reasons:

  • Assessment results provide qualitative information that helps faculty determine how they might improve courses and/or programs through changes in curriculum, teaching methodologies, course materials, or other areas. When integrated into the planning cycle for curriculum development and review, assessment results can provide a powerful rationale for securing support for curricular and other changes.
  • Assessment may provide comparative data that can give you valuable information on how well your students are meeting the learning outcomes for your course or program, or may show how WCC students perform compared to those at similar institutions.
  • An effective assessment program is required by the North Central Association for continuing accreditation as evidence of the College's efforts toward continuous improvement of effective teaching and learning.

Assessment Committee: Description

The Assessment Committee is advisory to the Vice President for Instruction and the President, and is involved in setting direction for the college's work in assessment of student learning.

The specific activities of the Assessment Committee involve setting direction for the College's work in assessment of student learning, reviewing assessment plans and reports and providing support and training to faculty.

The Assessment Committee meets weekly to take up assessment-related issues that arise. These meetings are open, and faculty, administration, and staff are encouraged to attend. The work of the Assessment Committee is closely related to the work of the Curriculum Committee.

Schedule of Meetings

Date: Each Thursday, from September through May
Location: Contact the Office of Curriculum & Assessment for the current location
Time: 2:00 to 3:30 pm

Faculty will be notified of any changes to the schedule of meetings.

Assessment Committee: Members

The current members of the Assessment Committee are:

Assessment Committee: Agendas and Minutes

Beginning in 2013, the Curriculum and Assessment Committees combined their regular meeting. The agenda for the meeting is e-mailed to all full-time faculty the Friday before the meeting. If faculty members wish to initiate an item, they should contact the Director of Curriculum and Assessment, Joy Garrett, at jogarrett@wccnet.edu extension 3374, SC 255.

Current Agendas and minutes have been moved to the Curriculum Committee page.

September 09/27/2018 Agenda    
  09/20/2018 Agenda Minutes  
  09/06/2018 Agenda Minutes  
August 08/22/2018 Agenda Minutes  
July 07/16/2018 Agenda Minutes  
April 04/19/2018 Agenda Minutes  
  04/12/2018 Agenda Minutes  
March 03/29/2018 Agenda Minutes  
  03/15/2018 Agenda Minutes  
  03/08/2018 Agenda Minutes  
  03/01/2018 Agenda Minutes  
February 02/15/2018 Agenda Minutes  
  02/08/2018 Agenda Minutes  
  02/01/2018 Agenda Minutes  
January 01/25/2018 Agenda Minutes  
  01/18/2018 Agenda Minutes  
  01/04/2018 Agenda Minutes  
December 12/07/2017 Agenda Minutes  
November 11/30/2017 Agenda Minutes  
  11/16/2017 Agenda Minutes  
  11/09/2017 Agenda Minutes  
  11/02/2017 Agenda Minutes  
October 10/26/2017 Agenda Minutes  
  10/19/2017 Agenda Minutes  
  10/12/2017 Agenda Minutes  
  10/05/2017   Minutes  
September 09/28/2017 Agenda Minutes  
  09/21/2017 Agenda Minutes  
  09/14/2017 Agenda Minutes  
  09/07/2017 Agenda Minutes  
August 08/25/2017 Agenda Minutes  

Assessment vs. Grades & Evaluation

Evaluation is a method, which may or may not be graded, of eliciting a performance or demonstration of knowledge or skills from a student. Grades are the descriptive faculty evaluation of an individual student's performance in a given course, test, or assignment. Grades oftentimes incorporate participation, attendance and/or extra credit, which are not true components of assessment of learning outcomes. Assessment is the examination of whether students as a whole are achieving the learning outcomes which have been developed by the department for a course or program. Assessment provides the "big picture" of whether students are meeting learning objectives.

While grades may not be used as assessment data, certain projects, tests, or assignments that are given for a grade in a course may be used for assessment purposes if they are externally evaluated using an appropriate rubric.

Course, Program, & General Education Assessment

Course Assessment

Course assessment is the assessment of student learning within a particular course. A course should be assessed for whether students are achieving the learning outcomes as stated in the master syllabus for that course. All sections of a course that are assessed should be assessed for the same learning outcomes and using the same assessment instrument. Course assessment is often accomplished through tools such as departmental or other exams, portfolios, or projects. Course assessment is not the evaluation of a particular section of faculty member.

Courses should be assessed on the same cycle as that for the three-year master syllabus review. Thus, each course will be assessed at least once every three years. Each time a master syllabus comes to Curriculum Committee for review (whether for a major /minor change or for the three-year review), it should be accompanied by the Course Assessment Report Form showing assessment activity and results.

Program Assessment

Program assessment is the assessment of student learning within a particular academic program leading to a degree or certificate. A program should be assessed for whether students are achieving the learning outcomes developed by the department that should be stated in the program approval documents for that program. Program assessment often is done through capstone experiences, portfolios, graduate or employer surveys, or licensure exams. Program assessment is not the evaluation of student achievement of learning objectives within courses that are part of the program, but rather of students' overall achievement of the broad goals of the academic program (e.g. employment, mastery of certain skills, successful transfer, etc.)

Programs should be assessed every four years.

General Education Assessment

General Education assessment is the assessment of student learning within the curricular areas meeting the College's general education requirements for a degree: writing, speech, mathematics, natural science, social and behavioral science, arts and humanities, critical thinking, and computer information literacy. Because the general education requirement is an institutional requirement that crosses disciplines, assessment occurs on a broader scale than course or program assessment. The general education areas are assessed for whether students are achieving the learning outcomes as stated in the College Catalogue for each area. General education assessment is currently done through standardized testing (writing, mathematics, and natural science), surveys or prompts (social and behavioral science and arts and humanities), evaluated speeches (speech), and institutionally developed or administered exams (critical thinking and computer and information literacy). General education assessment may occur in any of the courses that meet the general education requirement, and certain institutional assessments may also take place in courses outside the general educational areas.

General education areas are assessed every other year.

Assessment Responsibility

Faculty have ultimate ownership over assessment, and all departments are responsible for developing/selecting and implementing assessment tools in their area. It is up to the department chair to determine which individuals will be responsible for specific assessment assignments for courses and programs. Because multiple faculty are involved in teaching specific courses or programs, however, it is essential that departments or units collaborate on assessment activities. Each department also has an assessment liaison who serves as a resource person and who communicates regularly with the Assessment Steering Committee on assessment activity, progress and problems. The Assessment Steering Committee is available to assist in choosing or developing a tool, analyzing data, and providing feedback. Above all, faculty are responsible for examining the resulting data and using it where appropriate to validate changes that may be made to improve student learning. If you don't know who your liaison is you can contact us.

Steps to Developing an Assessment Plan

There are several steps to follow in creating a new or improved assessment plan:

  1. Examine the learning outcomes that have been outlined by the department for the course or program to be assessed (these should taken directly from the master syllabus or program approval documents).
  2. Identify those learning outcomes that will be assessed. Rather than attempting to assess all the learning outcomes on the course syllabus, choose those that seem most critical to the overall goals of the course which can be meaningfully measured.
  3. Select your assessment tool(s): methods or instruments for gathering evidence to show whether students have achieved the expected learning outcomes. Determine if there are existing data sources or tools that may be used or if new tools must be selected or developed. Select those tools that seem most appropriate to the learning objectives and student population being assessed. For sample tools, see Sample Assessment Methods.
  4. Select the student population to be assessed (e.g. random sample of sections, graduating student, etc.).
  5. Specify procedures for analyzing and interpreting the evidence gathered in assessment. Prior to administering assessments, create a scoring rubric or other method of evaluating results, and determine the departmental standard for performance expectations (e.g. success equals 75% of students meeting outcomes). Determine if the assessment will be episodic (a snapshot of student performance at one point in time) or ongoing (a recurring, consistent, and comparative assessment of student achievement over time).
  6. Determine how the information that results from assessment can be used for decision making, planning, and course/program evaluation and improvement. Develop means whereby involved faculty can review the data, make recommendations for change as appropriate, and incorporate such changes in the unit's planning cycle. Report findings to the area Dean and the Assessment Steering Committee, and include them when submitting curricular changes to Curriculum Committee.

Assessment Tools

Choosing a Tool

Assessment tools should be selected based on their applicability to the learning outcomes being assessed. In some cases, more than one tool may be used to assess a course or program. Measures may be direct or indirect. In direct measures, student demonstrate an expected learning outcomes (e.g. through a test, project, or assessment). In indirect measures, student or others report their perceptions of how well a given learning outcome has been achieved (e.g. through a student survey). Ideally, both types of measures will be used. For examples of tools, see the information on Sample Assessment Methods further down on this page.

Sample Assessment Methods

The following are just some of the potential assessment methods that might be used in assessing student academic achievement in courses and/or programs. It is always recommended that you choose the assessment method(s) that seem most appropriate for the learning outcomes you wish to assess.

Capstone experience

project or activity in which students demonstrate achievement of comprehensive learning outcomes that is usually completed at the end of a course or program. In a program, there may be a capstone course that includes the pertinent learning outcomes for the program.

Departmental exam

A common exam developed collaboratively by a department used in all sections being assessed; may be part of a graded final that is evaluated separately using a scoring rubric.

External certification/licensure exam

Exams developed by regional or national accrediting or licensing organizations to evaluate students on specific skills usually related to an occupational area, such as nursing or automotive technology.

Externally evaluated job performance

Evaluation of student competence, knowledge and skills by an employer in and internship, coop, or job placement. Useful for program assessment in occupational areas.

Externally evaluated performance or exhibit

Useful in the visual and performing arts, a performance or exhibit that is evaluated or judged by experts in the field other than the instructor for the assessed course/program. The external evaluator may be an instructor at WCC who teaches a different course/section.


A compilation of student work, including perhaps projects, artwork or writing samples, demonstrating achievement of multiple learning outcomes. May be in paper or electronic form, and may be used for course or program assessment. Portfolios are generally externally evaluated.

Pre- and post-test

A test or other assessment activity that is administered to students both at the beginning of a course or program and at the end, with the intention of demonstrating improved knowledge or skill upon completion.


An assessment activity in which something such as a newspaper article, poem, or piece of art is presented to the student in order to prompt a specific response, usually written. Useful particularly in the arts and humanities.

Standardized Test

A test assessing academic achievement or of knowledge in a specific academic or vocational domain. Such tests are frequently objective (although some may be written tests with open-ended questions) and have scores referencing the scores of a norm group, providing comparative data. Standardized tests are generally commercial products and are useful in many areas. A current example at WCC is the use of CAAP tests to assess skills in the general education areas of math, writing, and natural science.


Surveys may be used to evaluate perceptions of student achievement. Surveys of graduates, employers, or advisory committee members may help determine if program outcomes relating to employment and skill attainment have been met. Students may also be surveyed regarding self-perception of their success or, if administered as a pre-and post-test, of the improvement following completion of a course or program. Because surveys are indirect measures of student academic achievement, they are ideally used in combination with more direct measures.

Transfer follow-up

In courses or programs that have a high degree of transferability to other institutions, it may be useful to examine student success in subsequent courses at the receiving institutions. WCC has a large database of transfer follow-up information from Eastern Michigan University for assessment purposes.

Creating a Scoring Rubric

What is a scoring rubric?

A scoring rubric is an efficient tool that allows you to objectively measure student performance on an assessment activity. Rubrics may vary in complexity, but generally do the following:

  • Focus on measuring very specific stated learning objectives
  • Use a range to rate performance
  • Are based on specific performance characteristics arranged in levels indicating the degree to which a standard has been met

There are two types of scoring rubrics:

  • Primary trait analysis (separate, holistic scoring of specified characteristics or a product, activity or behavior); for assessment purposes, the primary traits are learning outcomes being assessed, and separate scores are given for each trait or outcome. This is most useful when assessing a course or program.
  • Holistic scoring (one global, holistic score for a product, activity or behavior); for assessment purposes, in holistic scoring a single score is given for overall achievement of multiple learning outcomes. This is most useful when assessing a knowledge area such as critical thinking or communication.

Either type of rubric works well for assessment, so you should feel free to use the method with which you feel is most suited to the learning outcomes and assessment tool you are using.

When should a scoring rubric be used?

Rubrics can be used to classify and measure almost any product, activity or behavior, such as tests, essays, reports, portfolios, projects, oral presentations, performances, or group activities. Once you have selected or developed an assessment tool or tools, you can create a rubric to define the expectations for the course/program/area you are assessing.

How do I develop a scoring rubric?

Once you have determined what you are assessing (a course, program, or large knowledge/skill set such as critical thinking) and developed your assessment tool(s), you can develop your rubric. Download the Scoring Rubric templates for details on developing primary trait analysis and holistic scoring rubrics. The Scoring Rubric templates are in Adobe Acrobat PDF.

  1. Identify the characteristics of what you are assessing. In most cases, these will be specific stated learning outcomes. Each rubric item will usually focus on a different skill or competency. Keep it simple, with perhaps 5-15 items stated in brief phrases.
  2. Describe the best work you could expect using these characteristics. This describes the top range of your rubric.
  3. Describe the worst acceptable product using these characteristics. This describes the lowest acceptable range of your rubric.
  4. Describe an unacceptable product. This describes the lowest range of your rubric.
  5. Develop descriptions of intermediate-level products and assign them to intermediate ranges. For example, for a primary trait rubric you might choose a range of one to five for each item or learning outcome (for example: unacceptable, limited proficiency, proficient, good proficiency, superior proficiency). A sample range for holistic scoring is a scale of one to four, with each range representing a series of achieved learning objectives (for example, completes all of the objectives, completes some of the objective, completes few of the objectives, completes none of the objectives). Alternatively, you may choose a scale such as high pass, pass, low pass, or no pass. Select terminology that is clear, objective, and meaningful to your assessment tool and learning outcomes.

How do I use my rubric?

  • Use it to define performance on a single assessment tool such as a test or project, with each characteristic representing a learning outcome.
  • Use it to define program assessment, with each characteristic representing a broad outcome measured by a different assessment tool.
  • Use a scoring rubric to evaluate a test or assignment that is given in class for a grade. Score the assignment blindly with a rubric that is different from the method you use for grading, or have the assignment externally evaluated using a rubric. One method is to select several questions from a final, for example, and evaluate them using a rubric in which each question represents a learning outcome to be assessed.

Analyzing and Using Data

What to do with data

In most cases, departments will analyze and interpret their own data; however, the Assessment Steering Committee and Office of Institutional Research are available to assist in analyzing raw data. Once analyzed, the department should review the data to determine whether changes based on the data are to be made, and summarize it on the Course or Program Assessment Report Form.

How to use data results

Results should be reviewed by all involved faculty and shared with the dean and Assessment Steering Committee (via the Course or Program Assessment Report Form). Results should also be reported when submitting syllabi for review to Curriculum Committee. After reviewing results, faculty may make recommendations for change to their department chair/dean.

Reporting results

Results are reported via the Course, Program and General Education Assessment Report Forms. Forms are available for download on the assessment web site or from the Assessment Steering Committee.

Glossary of Assessment Terms

Find out Glossary of Assessment Terms.

Assessment and its Importance

Find out what assessment encompasses and why it is important for our academic institution to participate in the process.

Assessment Committee

A brief description of the Assessment Committee, as well as an archive of meeting agendas and minutes. Go directly to the Assessment Committee meeting minutes.

Assessment vs. Grades & Evaluation

Discover the difference between assessment and evaluation. Information on the use of both assessment and evaluation is provided.

Course, Program, & General Education Assessment

Contains information on each of the three types of assessment that are conducted on a regular basis at Washtenaw Community College.

Assessment Responsibility

The Assessment Responsibility section provides information regarding the responsibility of each faculty member and the institution as a whole with respect to assessment.

Steps to Developing an Assessment Plan

Provides a step-by-step set of guidelines for developing an assessment plan for an individual course or program.

Assessment Tools

Outlines information on appropriate assessment tools as well as sample assessment methods.

Creating a Scoring Rubric

Provides a description of a scoring rubric as well as a link to a downloadable template.

Analyzing and Using Data

Find out what to do with your data once it has been collected.

Glossary of Assessment Terms

Find out Glossary of Assessment Terms.

View all sections.