Assessment of Student Learning

Marquam Hill campus in spring

At OHSU, we are committed to achieving and maintaining the highest quality academic programs and ensuring that our academic assessment activities and processes are transparent to both internal and external stakeholders.

Assessment Graphic

Assessment is an ongoing process of establishing learning goals, providing learning opportunities, measuring student learning and using the results to inform curricular change. Assessment examines whether students achieved the learning goals established for them.

Institutional Student Learning Outcomes

We measure student learning outcomes against two primary sets of educational goals:

  1. Core Theme Indicators as identified by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  2. OHSU Graduation Core Competencies/Student Learning Outcomes:
  • Professional knowledge and skills: Demonstrate competence in the core knowledge, skills, and practices as defined by degree programs and relevant professional licensing and credentialing boards.
  • Reasoning and judgment: Demonstrate the ability to identify and define problems, critically compare options, make timely decisions or recommendations, identify uncertainties and use findings to improve outcomes in light of evolving evidence.
  • Evidence-based practice and research: Demonstrate the ability to access, evaluate and apply relevant science knowledge to support evidence-based health care, disease prevention, health promotion and discovery.
  • Lifelong learning: Demonstrate the ability to recognize gaps in knowledge and experience through informed self-assessment and reflective practices and take actions to address those gaps.  
  • Communication: Demonstrate active listening and oral and written communication skills with diverse individuals, communities and colleagues to ensure effective, culturally appropriate exchange of information. 
  • Professionalism and ethics: Demonstrate integrity, honesty, knowledge of ethical principles and the standards of professional conduct and the ability to apply ethical principles in clinical care, research, education or community service.
  • Teamwork: Demonstrate the abilities required to foster and work effectively within collaborative, team-based environments. 
  • Safety and quality improvement: Demonstrate the ability to identify situations that compromise safety and participate in risk reduction and continuous quality improvement.
  • Systems: Demonstrate an appropriate understanding of evolving health care systems, health and science policy and resource allocation in order to optimize human health and scientific discovery. 
  • Patient/client-centered care: Additionally, clinical degree program graduates will be able to demonstrate the ability to collaborate with diverse individuals, families, and communities to provide quality care that is respectful of and responsive to their preferences, needs, attitudes, beliefs and values.

Four reasons to assess student learning

  1. Provide equitable student experiences: No matter a student's educational characteristics and assumptions, all students know what to expect on day one until they day they graduate. 
  2. Document quality: Demonstrating and proving our graduates are competent when they graduate.
  3. Ensure alignment: Our learning outcomes inform our curriculum, our curriculum and outcomes inform assessment methods and assessment results inform curricular change.
  4. Differentiate ourselves regionally and nationally: OHSU is a trendsetter in education. We must continue to demonstrate what makes our educational experience unique.

How assessment improves the quality of education

Assessment plans and reports are reviewed by the Assessment Council utilizing a rubric that examine the following criteria: 

 Assessment Criteria

As a result of institutional assessment at OHSU, we are able to provide a picture of student learning on campus. This assessment process allows us to identify how we develop learners toward our graduation core competencies. The findings of the 2016-17 assessment cycle was presented at the 2018 Symposium on Education on April 27, 2018.

How we do it: the assessment process

assessment process 

Who's involved in assessment

Assessment team


Assessment FAQs

Why engage in assessment?

  • Improve assessment practices 
  • Improve student learning  

  • Engage faculty in curriculum improvement and quality student learning environments 

  • Be accountable and transparent about assessment and student learning to an array of stakeholders externally (NWCCU and other accreditors, parents) and internally (students, faculty, administrators) 

What’s the difference between accreditation and assessment? 

Assessment is the ongoing systematic process of:

  • Establishing student learning objectives 
  • Verifying/validating student learning objectives

  • Analyzing the results of assessments

  • Adjusting and improving the curriculum based on the assessment data.

Accreditation is a process to ensure specialty or institutional standards are rigorous, consistent and impartially applied. Assessment data should be used to support accreditation. 

What's the difference between assessment and evaluation? 

Assessment examines whether students achieved the learning goals established for them.  

Evaluation judges the quality of a program and is not limited to student learning. Evaluation of an academic program can examine faculty recruitment and retention, research and cost-effectiveness. 

What's the difference between direct and indirect evidence of student learning? 

Direct evidence of student learning is tangible, visible, self-explanatory and compelling evidence of what students have and have not learned (i.e., licensure exam scores, portfolio of student work, observations of student behavior, clicker responses and capstone experiences such as dissertations).  

Indirect evidence is a proxy sign of what a learner is probably learning (i.e., course grades, retention/graduation rates, alumni perceptions, and student participation rates). 

What do you mean by assessing learning? 

Learning is a cognitive exercise that is often invisible to others. Educators are charged with measuring what learners know through a process called assessment. 

What is scholarship of teaching and learning? 

Scholarship of teaching and learning is scholarly inquiry into student learning which advances the practice of teaching by making inquiry findings public. 

What is curriculum design? 

Curriculum design in health professions programs is often referred to as a cycle of: 

  1. Problem identification and general needs assessment 

  1. Needs assessment for targeted learners 

  1. Goals and objectives 

  1. Educational strategies 

  1. Implementation 

  1. Evaluation and feedback

Assessment Cycle

The Office of Educational Improvement and Innovation is currently focused on fulfilling the requirements of an assessment cycle that is aligned with an NWCCU accreditation visit in fall 2022 while responding to the fall 2018 mid-cycle visit feedback.

Assessment plans

A key component of the assessment process is the assessment plan. An assessment plan is a document describing an academic program's student learning outcomes, targets, instruments for learning outcome appraisals, assessment timeline, process for analyzing assessment data and improvement plans.

An assessment plan includes four elements:

  • Purpose statement
  • Outcomes
  • Measures
  • Performance criteria

Please refer to the Assessment Handbook  (OHSU login required) for more information on how the assessment plan elements should be constructed.

Preparing a plan

It is important for program faculty to know the intended program outcomes at the time a program is created. It is equally important for faculty to identify where in the new curriculum students will be exposed to program content, have opportunities to reinforce initial learning on that content and ultimately demonstrate their knowledge of the content. It may be helpful to develop a curriculum map at this point to help pinpoint places throughout the curriculum where student learning can and should be assessed.

Each academic program will be asked to update its assessment plan each year. The A-TEAM will review your assessment activities and provide feedback and a letter of compliance to the university academic program review committee upon successful completion.

Program assessment plans and reports can be submitted here. (OHSU login required)  


 Assessment Timeline


Need help?

  • Participate in the Assessment Academy
Assessment Academy Spring Flier  Assessment Academy Winter Flier

OHSU Assessment Council

The OHSU Assessment Council advises academic leadership on matters concerning institution-wide assessment of educational programs, student learning outcomes and the resources needed to support such assessments. The council ensures that academic assessment and accountability are institutional priorities and supports OHSU's mission to educate health care professionals, scientists and leaders in top-tier positions.


  • Implement standards for assessment of educational programs and student learning outcomes
  • Develop mechanisms by which academic units and programs engage in assessment of student learning outcomes contributing to the continuous improvement of their program offerings and student outcomes
  • Ensure clarity, specificity, functionality and alignment of the programmatic evaluation and student assessment practices with OHSU's mission and strategic goals
  • Monitor the established educational assessment process and performance outcomes data from a university-wide perspective forwarding analysis to the Deans' Council and Provost for consideration and integration into the overall university strategic planning process
  • Contribute to the self-study process required to maintain the university's regional accreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • As needed, the Assessment Council will recommend improvements in instruction, staffing, curriculum and student and academic services to the provost. The full charter can be viewed here.


  • Alex Shuford, Ph.D.(School of Medicine - Undergraduate Medical Education)
  • Yi Cao, Ph.D. (School of Nursing)
  • Patty Carney, (School of Medicine - Family Medicine, IPE)
  • Robin Champieux, M.L.S. (Faculty Senate Representative)
  • Sarah Drummond-Hays, M.A. (School of Medicine - Physician Assistant Program)
  • Paula Gubrud-Howe, R.N., Ed.D. (School of Nursing)
  • Robert Halstead, M.B.A. (Provost’s Office)
  • Lisa Hatfield, Ed.D. (School of Public Health)
  • Cherie Honnell, B.S. (Provost’s Office)
  • Tatum Korin, (School of Nursing)
  • Lisa Marriott, Ph.D. (School of Medicine - Graduate Programs)
  • Julie McGuire, (School of Medicine - Human Nutrition) 
  • Deb Messecar, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N. (School of Nursing - Undergraduate Programs) 
  • Rose McPharlin, D.D.S.  (School of Dentistry - Pre-doctoral Programs) 
  • Tanya Ostrogorsky, Ed.D. (College of Pharmacy)
  • Crystal Paredes, (School of Dentistry)
  • Lisa Hatfield, Ed.D. (Teaching and Learning Center)
  • Rick Johnson, (School of Public Health) 
  • Anna Teske, M.P.A. (Provost’s Office)
  • Sarah Jacobs, M.Ed. (Teaching and Learning Center)
  • Jackie Wirz, Ph.D. (School of Medicine - Graduate Programs)
  • Sam Papadakis (Student Representative)
  • Mark Rivera, M.A.T (Office for Educational Improvement and Innovation) 
  • Kirstin Moreno, Ph.D. (Office for Educational Improvement and Innovation)
  • Claire Mitchell, M.S. (Provost’s Office)
  • Nihal Patel (Student Representative)

Exemplars in Assessment at OHSU

Take a look!  The Assessment Council has identified some exemplary practices across OHSU.

Decisions Informed by Assessment Data

Decisions informed by 2019 Assessment Data

The table below summarizes how specific OHSU programs used assessment council feedback and data to inform programmatic change.  Please click the thumbnail below to access the summary table.

Assessment Decisions Thumbnail