Linda Suskie

 A Common Sense Appr​oach to Assessment in Higher Education


I've had to disable the Comments feature of my blog because it's been targeted by spammers. But I'd still love to hear your thoughts and reactions! Please post a response to any blog post wherever you saw a link to my blog--Twitter, LinkedIn, or the ASSESS listserv--or contact me directly.

view:  full / summary

A few suggestions on working from home

Posted on March 25, 2020 at 6:05 AM

The entire planet, including the higher education community, has been rocked to the core by the COVID-19 virus and efforts to contain it. Many people are suddenly teaching and working from home for the first time in their lives.


I’ve been working from home for decades, starting when I was on parental leave when my children were born in the 1980s. Starting in 1999, my jobs had extremely long commutes, so I negotiated working from home one or two days a week. For the la...

Read Full Post »

Would competition among regional accreditors diminish the quality of American higher education?

Posted on February 27, 2020 at 11:35 AM

Originally posted 2/21/2020


First, my apologies to anyone who had trouble accessing my February 18, 2020, blog post on the prospect of regional accreditors’ boundaries evaporating. My website hosting service chose that day for a glitch that made my entire blog vanish. I appreciate everyone’s patience while the service restored my blog.


I also appreciate the very thoughtful replies I’ve received to that blog post. Most of the comments we...

Read Full Post »

Are the regional accreditors' boundaries evaporating?

Posted on February 18, 2020 at 2:30 PM

In November 2019 the US Department of Education (USED) issued “final” regulations for “the secretary’s recognition of accreditation agencies” among other matters. (I put “final” in quotes because things in Washington tend to change every few years.) You can find a link to the relevant pages of the Federal Register

Read Full Post »

Some assessment smiles for the holidays

Posted on December 22, 2019 at 8:50 AM

I stumbled across an old folder of assessment-related witticisms that I’ve collected over the years—literally decades. Here are some of my favorites. Unfortunately, the sources of some are lost to time. If you know any missing sources, or if you know any other good witticisms, please let me know!


I’m all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let’s start with surveys. (Frank Lloyd Wright)


Measurements are ...

Read Full Post »

How many samples of student work do you need to assess?

Posted on November 22, 2019 at 7:00 AM

It’s a question I get a lot! And—fair warning!—you probably won’t like my answers.


First, the learning goals we assess are promises we make to our students, their families, employers, and society: Students who successfully complete a course, program, gen ed curriculum, or other learning experience can do the things we promise in our learning goals. Those learning goals also are (or should be) the most important things we want students t...

Read Full Post »

General education as an economic driver?

Posted on October 19, 2019 at 8:25 AM

At a recent workshop on general education in a region with low educational and income levels. I pointed out that general education can be a driver of economic development.

Generally speaking, people with more education earn more money. They spend more, pay more taxes, and other ways contribute to regional economic development.


We also know that college students are most likely to drop out of college during their first year or two—when they’re ...

Read Full Post »

What's the difference between course and program learning goals?

Posted on September 5, 2019 at 8:15 AM

Let me begin with a brief sidebar on assessment vocabulary. Assessment in higher education is relatively new—only a few decades old—and we don’t yet have a standard vocabulary. Specifically, we don’t have agreement on the terms “learning objectives,” “learning competencies,” “learning goals,” and “learning outcomes.” Some people draw distinctions among these terms; I don’t. Many people use the term “learning o...

Read Full Post »

Who is your audience?

Posted on August 7, 2019 at 6:30 AM

In my July 9, 2019, blog post I encouraged using summertime to reflect on your assessment practices, starting with the question, “Why are we assessing?”

Here are the next questions on which I suggest you reflect:

  • Who are our audiences for the products we’re generating through our assessment processes?
  • What decisions are they making?
Read Full Post »

Why are you assessing?

Posted on July 9, 2019 at 3:50 PM

Summer is a great time to reflect on and possibly rethink your assessment practices. I’m a big believer in form following function, so I think the first question to reflect on should be, “Why are we doing this?” You can then reflect on how well your assessment practices achieve those purposes.

In Chapter 6 of my book Assessi...

Read Full Post »

Culturally Responsive Assessment

Posted on June 8, 2019 at 6:25 AM

I have the honor of serving as one of the faculty of this year's Mission Fulfillment Fellowship of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). One of the readings that’s resonated most with the Fellows is Equity and Assessment: Moving Towards Culturally Responsive Assessment by Erick Montenegro and Natasha Jankowski. 

A number of the themes of thi...

Read Full Post »

Understanding direct and indirect evidence of student learning

Posted on May 10, 2019 at 8:50 AM

A recent question posted to the ASSESS listserv led to a lively discussion of direct vs. indirect evidence of student learning, including what they are and the merits of each.

I really hate jargon, and “direct” and “indirect” is right at the top of my list of jargon I hate. A few years ago I did a little poking around to try to figure out who came up with these terms. The earliest reference I could find was in a government regulation. That makes sense...

Read Full Post »

What is good assessment, revisited

Posted on April 17, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Another week, another critique of assessment, this one at the Academic Resource Conference of the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

The fundamental issue is that, more than a quarter century into the higher ed assessment movement, we still aren’t doing assessment very well. So this may be a good time to reconsid...

Read Full Post »

Is it time to update our learning goals?

Posted on March 27, 2019 at 5:40 AM

Burning Glass Technology recently released a report on a study of skills that employers included in online job postings in over 50,000 online job boards, newspapers, and employer websites.

Before I get to the meat of their findings, an important caveat: While 50,000 online employment sites sound impressive, they’re clearly not representative of all jobs sought and f...

Read Full Post »

Why are we doing curriculum maps?

Posted on February 23, 2019 at 5:55 AM

Curriculum maps have become trendy in the last few years. They’ve built into some commercial assessment management systems. But to some faculty they’re simply one more pointless chore to be completed. Why bother creating a curriculum map?

First, what is a curriculum map? It’s a simple chart identifying the key learning goals addressed in each of the curriculum’s key elements or learning activities. A curriculum map for an academic program identifies t...

Read Full Post »

Why Do I Assess?

Posted on January 31, 2019 at 7:45 AM

Last year was not one of the best for higher ed assessment. A couple of very negative opinion pieces got a lot of traction among higher ed people who had been wanting to say, “See? Assessment is really as stupid and pointless as I’ve always thought it was.” At some American universities, this was a major setback on assessment progress.

The higher ed assessment community came together quickly with a

Read Full Post »

Setting meaningful benchmarks and standards, revisited

Posted on January 16, 2019 at 7:45 AM

A recent discussion on the ACCSHE listserv reminded me that setting meaningful benchmarks or standards for student learning assessments remains a real challenge. About three years ago, I wrote a blog post on setting benchmarks or standards for rubrics. Let’s revisit that and expand the concepts to assessments beyond rubrics.

The first challen...

Read Full Post »

Getting NSSE (and other assessment) results used

Posted on December 19, 2018 at 10:55 AM

One of my treats this time of year is getting the latest annual report from the National Survey of Student Engagement. I’m an enormous fan of this survey. One reason is that it’s research-based: the questions are all about practices that research has shown help students learn and succeed. Another is that, because the questions mostly ask about specific experiences rather than satisfaction, the results are “actionable”: they make clear what institutions need to do to im...

Read Full Post »

I'm not a fan of Bloom's

Posted on November 13, 2018 at 6:50 AM

I’m mystified by how Bloom’s taxonomy has pervaded the higher education assessment landscape. I’ve met faculty who have no idea what a rubric or a test blueprint or a curriculum map is, but it’s been burned into their brains that they must follow Bloom’s taxonomy when developing learning goals. This frustrates me no end, because I don’t think Bloom’s is the best framework for considering learning outcomes in higher education.


Read Full Post »

Grading group work

Posted on October 27, 2018 at 10:30 AM

Collaborative learning, better known as group work, is an important way for students to learn. Some students learn better with their peers than by working alone. And employers very much want employees who bring teamwork skills.

But group work, such as a group presentation, is one of the hardest things for faculty to grade fairly. One reason is that many student groups include some slackers and some overactive eager beavers. When viewing the product of a group assignment̵...

Read Full Post »

Consider professionalism as a learning goal

Posted on September 23, 2018 at 10:35 AM

A recent Inside Higher Ed piece, “The Contamination of Student Assessment” by Jay Sterling Silver, argued that behaviors such as class attendance and class participation shouldn’t be factored into grades because grades should be “unadulterated measurements of knowledge and skills that we represent them to be...

Read Full Post »