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Indirect Measures

Indirect Measures of student learning assess opinions or thoughts about student knowledge, skills, attitudes, learning experiences, and perceptions.

Examples of indirect measures are: student surveys about instruction; focus groups; alumni surveys; employer surveys.

Indirect measures can help explain results obtained from a direct assessment, as well as give insights on how students perceive aspects of our programs. At times, indirect measures may be entirely sufficient for measuring some program outcomes. Indirect measures include surveys, focus groups, and other activities that gather impressions or opinions about the program and/or its learning outcomes.

Types of indirect measures

  1. Student Surveying or Exit Interviewing
  2. Alumni Surveying
  3. Employer Surveying
  4. External Reviewers
  5. Curriculum and Syllabus Analysis

Indirect measures: Making them effective

  1. Consider whether you have existing measures that can be used as indirect measures of a SLO. This might include exit or senior surveys, alumni surveys, end-of-quarter evaluations that include items about perceptions of student learning of specific SLOs, or possibly, surveys given at the university level such as NSSE (the National Survey of Student Engagement). Given your SLO, can you base your assessment entirely on these indirect measures or can they be used to supplement a direct assessment of student learning?
  2. If you need to develop new measures, consider the merits of surveys (online or paper), focus groups, or interviews. Which approach will provide the most meaningful and manageable results?
  3. Can the same indirect measure provide information on more than one SLO?
  4. In addition to indirect measures for students, can this approach be used productively with faculty? Are there other materials (e.g., syllabi) that can provide indirect support for questions the program wishes to answer? For example, if the program is assessing students' written and/or oral communication, will an analysis of syllabi help inform the assessment by showing what faculty are asking students to do?
  5. Will the type of evidence gathered help the program understand what it can do to improve?