L&S Assessment Plan

This document presents the L&S assessment plan that was developed by the L&S Curriculum Committee and endorsed by the L&S Academic Planning Council (December 2011). The document describes a fundamental set of expectations related to assessment of student learning, articulates college-level learning outcomes (and delegates to departments and programs responsibility for articulating more detailed, program-level outcomes), and discusses procedures concerning assessment plans and reports for academic, student service, and academic support units.

UW-Madison College of Letters and Science Assessment Plan
Revised per LSCC discussion November 22, 2011, Endorsed by L&S APC December 6, 2011

Overview: An Introduction to Assessment of Student Learning in L&S

The College of Letters and Science (L&S) is UW-Madison’s largest unit, consisting of 40 departments, 10 non-departmental instructional programs, 5 professional schools, and about 60 interdisciplinary research centers. The work of the college is essential to UW-Madison’s instructional mission, with L&S conferring more than half (60%) of all UW-Madison undergraduate degrees, and 45% of graduate degrees.  L&S contributes extensively to the instructional missions of other schools and colleges, teaching about 89% of all UW-Madison Freshman/Sophomore credits delivered across all units.  Well over half of all living UW-Madison alumni hold L&S degrees.  In order to help our students graduate and become alumni, the college operates the largest and most complex academic affairs unit in the university, providing services ranging from general academic advising, to policy analysis and implementation of the L&S baccalaureate degree requirements, to enrichment programs serving the range of students from “at-risk” to “honors”. In short, the breadth of the university is reflected in the breadth of the College, which is “the heart of a great university”.

Assessment of student learning is an important tool for informing the decisions we make.  In L&S, this task is guided by the following principles:

Audiences Concerned With Student Learning.   Assessment results are reported to various audiences and serve a variety of purposes.   

Within the unit, assessment information is shared with program faculty and staff to inform decision-making. Academic units share results with the departmental curriculum and executive committees; student service units report results to directors, advisers, and others to improve services.  Decisions influenced by assessment results may involve requests to change existing program requirements, development of proposals to create new programs, or preparation of communications with external audiences in alumni newsletters and community partners.  The assessment of student learning is a form of action research that engages teachers interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning, and this work is frequently pursued as research in its own right, often the most immediate beneficiaries are students, colleagues, and departments.

When units want to implement program changes, the L&S Curriculum Committee reviews requests that arise from assessment activities, since careful study of whether the program is working – and if students are learning - will often identify problems that need to be addressed (and potential solutions).  If departmental inquiries suggest that new programs could be developed, the L&S Academic Planning Council will review requests as part of that process, which requires submission of assessment results.  New programs must include assessment plans before they are approved.  

Units also compile assessment results when preparing department-wide self-studies for program and accreditation reviews.  Taking a “long view” of assessment results offers insights into patterns of student interest, academic quality, resource allocation, student satisfaction, and the overall student experience.

Finally, students are an increasingly important audience for assessment information.  They participate not only as subjects whose learning attainment is evaluated, but also as beneficiaries of efforts to improve the quality of education.  They are subjects and partners in this effort.

At the college-level, assessment results are used for decision making (as noted above, when the Curriculum Committee and Academic Planning Council consider curricular changes).  They are also included in reports of major committees and service units in periodic and annual reports to the dean, and these, in turn, serve as the foundation for the Dean’s annual reports to the Provost on assessment and program review.   These reports include both academic and non-academic assessment activities conducted by departments and service units across the college, and they are shared with other units (e.g, Undergraduate Academic Services) and bodies (e.g. the Academic Planning Council, Department Chairs).

Student Learning in L&S


1.      Learning Goals.   The College of Letters and Science promotes a liberal arts education via research, inquiry, and conscious integration of learning across the liberal arts and sciences; in L&S, “the Wisconsin Experience” is grounded in liberal education.  At a minimum, we expect that L&S students will recognize and value the various “ways of knowing” the world through the arts and humanities, and the biological, physical and social sciences, as described in Catalog  and other materials (see http://pubs.wisc.edu/ug/ls_ugstudy.htm#breadth).  Beyond this minimum, we believe that, through in-class education and experiences beyond the walls of the traditional classroom students should:
Please click here for a printable version of L&S Learning Outcomes.

2.    Plan for Assessing Student Learning.    An annual assessment project to evaluate student learning with respect to one or more of the learning goals stated above could be conducted.  The tools used for this purpose will include a variety of activities, with projects dedicated to answering questions that have college-wide implications for students.  For example, the committee may decide to:
Detailed planning for assessment will be conducted by the L&S Curriculum Committee, which will develop multi-year project plan, to be implemented in Fall 2012.  Projects will be designed to make effective use of limited resources, using pilot studies and sampling strategies to manage the large scale of studies required in L&S.

3.    Reporting.  The L&S Curriculum Committee could report results of assessment activities to the L&S Senate.  That report could also be shared with the L&S Chairs and Directors, L&S Student Academic Affairs, and advisors in various units across the College.  The Chair of the Curriculum Committee could share additional information with the L&S Academic Planning Council and others groups on an ad hoc basis.  Recommendations arising from assessment results could be discussed by the L&S Curriculum Committee and presented to the bodies empowered to enact/approve the change (usually, the Dean, the L&S Senate, and/or the Academic Planning Council).


Major-specific Learning Goals.  As noted above, each department and program is responsible for assessing undergraduate and graduate education. Each is required to have a statement of educational objectives for each degree program it sponsors. Assessment plans are expected to include the following characteristics:

For undergraduate majors:
For graduate programs:
Student Service and Academic Support Units.   Assessment plans for these units should include the following characteristics:

This document has been endorsed by the College of Letters and Science Curriculum Committee and the Letters and Science Academic Planning Council.

Gary Sandefur, Dean

Diane Gooding, L&S Curriculum Committee Chair (2011-12)
Professor of Psychology

Elaine M. Klein, Assistant Dean for Academic Planning,
Contact Information: elaine.wisc.@wisc.edu, (608) 265-8484

PDF Document Name:  CollegeLearningOutcomesandAssessmentPlan-Final.pdf
Version date:  December 6, 2011

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