National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment |

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment

Example of Good Assessment Practice: St. Olaf College


Jankowski, N. (2012, April). St. Olaf College: Utilization-Focused Assessment (NILOA Examples of Good Assessment Practice). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.

Our primary focus of work is teaching and what we really want to understand as faculty are the practices, structures and experiences that will support learning. We may have hunches, but focusing on inquiry in support of learning allows us to think, in more intentional ways, about what we are trying to achieve and ultimately see if a change we made in our instruction did impact student learning.
-Faculty member of Assessment Subcommittee

St. Olaf College: Utilization-Focused Assessment

The National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) selected St. Olaf as a case study institution due to the institutional framing of assessment as inquiry in support of student learning and as meaningful, manageable, and mission-driven; the utilization-focus/backward-design approach employed in assessment; the integration of student learning outcomes assessment processes into faculty governance structures; and the collaborative involvement of multiple stakeholders and diverse ways in which evidence of student learning is utilized throughout the institution.
Link to the full report here.

Lessons from St. Olaf College

1. Assessment of student learning is enhanced when aligned with the interests of faculty and with the work regarding student learning that is already underway.

2. Focusing assessment on questions related to student learning in meaningful and manageable ways that align with institutional mission, helps foster a culture of assessment across an institution.

3. Involving a variety of stakeholders in assessment activities and then providing reports on the success of those activities can bolster a culture of assessment.

4. Coupling faculty and administrative directives to provide a middle-ground can help to disperse assessment activities across campus.

5. Being intentional about the potential uses from the beginning of assessment efforts and providing opportunities for dialogue around evidence of student learning through designated reflection times will lead to enhanced use of assessment results.


St. Olaf has also been featured in the following:

The Tk20 Newsletter - Assessment and Accreditation Practices

Sternberg, R. J., Penn, J., & Hawkins, C. (2011). Assessing college student learning: Evaluating alternative models, using multiple methods. Association of American Colleges & Universities.