National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment |

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment

Example of Good Assessment Practice: Carnegie Mellon University


Kinzie, J. (2012, June). Carnegie Mellon University: Fostering Assessment for Improvement and Teaching Excellence (NILOA Examples of Good Assessment Practice). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.

“While faculty may get frustrated or feel overwhelmed by the amount of data that we are collecting, working through the processes such as the PABs and at the Eberly Center have helped us use the information to improve.”
-- Faculty Member, Engineering

Carnegie Mellon University: Fostering Assessment for Improvement and Teaching Excellence

Carnegie Mellon was selected as a case study for the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) for having an approach to student learning outcomes assessment that reflects the institution’s commitment to interdisciplinarity and innovative teaching and learning. Three elements have been instrumental in CMU’s advances in program-level student learning outcomes assessment: 1) an institutionalized research-oriented and data-informed university decision-making process driven by deans and departments; 2) an organizational culture with established processes promoting continuous improvement; and 3) the elevation of a cross-campus faculty resource—the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence—as the hub of assessment support. This case study broadly describes CMU’s approach to addressing the challenges of assessment, explores the salient elements of CMU’s culture for assessment and improvement, and then focuses on the positioning and role of the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence in student learning outcomes assessment at CMU.
Link to the full report here.

Lessons from Carnegie Mellon University

1. Respect departmental approaches to assessment. To ensure that results are meaningful to departments, encourage variability in approaches to collecting learning outcomes results, the timing of reviews, and the uses of outcomes to guide curriculum revision.

2. Identify what most interests faculty in assessment and leverage this in the promotion of assessment activities. At CMU, assessment is driven by the level of performance demanded by CMU faculty and staff, whereas external calls for accountability—while acknowledged—are less influential.

3. Take advantage of accreditation self-study and strategic planning processes, and leverage existing institutional structures to stimulate assessment improvements.

4. Provide professional development and structured opportunities to faculty and departments for support and feedback on their assessment work.

5. Ultimately, student learning outcomes assessment should improve the quality of teaching and learning. Advance these connections and encourage faculty and staff to exchange ideas about creative approaches to assessment and how these influence their practice.