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Course Design

Assessment at CMC

We can use the practice of assessment in our pedagogy to support belonging and success for CMC students.

Assessment = improving student learning

Are our students learning what we say they are learning? Through assessment, we know and our students know. Assessment as a practice allows us to continually improve and adapt assessment methods to be more inclusive and representative of student knowledge regardless of students’ experiences, knowledge, or skills. Assessment allows us to celebrate our students as unique learners and share successes!

Throughout the cycle of assessment in our curricular and co-curricular spaces, student success should be at the center and surrounded by equity. Your CMC Academic Support Team is here to help you in this work.

The six steps of the assessment cycle are labeled in six rectangles evenly spaced over a circle with an arrow. The words

Steps in the Cycle of Assessment

  1. SLOs: Starting with well-developed, concise Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs), we can ensure we have measurable outcomes for learning (be it a course, a program, a co-curricular activity, etc.). Sharing SLOs up front with students helps them understand relevancy and expectations for their learning. CMC SLOs come from the Colorado Community College System (CCCS) Common Course Numbering System (CCNS) catalog. We also use Bloom's Taxonomy to develop SLOs.
  2. Instruction: Implementing instruction guided by the outcomes alongside students with formative assessments can help us pivot our teaching if needed to ensure students are developing learning mastery.
  3. Assessment method: Providing a variety of assessment methods and assessment options to students for an outcome embeds equity and inclusivity in the course. Formative and summative direct assessments as well as indirect assessments measure our learning outcomes.
  4. Analysis: We can know, with evidence, if our students are learning what we expect them to learn by analyzing results of learning mastery, such as rubric scores of assessment artifacts,
  5. Reflection and Reporting: Colorado Mountain College’s assessment reporting process includes reflection of the above-described steps in the cycle and consideration of improvements that need to be made, based on the analysis of learning outcomes. Improvement: Although the practice of assessment with this cycle is ongoing, the final step is implementing improvements and re-assessing to know if students are grasping learning outcomes (“closing the loop”).
  6. Improvement: Although the practice of assessment with this cycle is ongoing, the final step is implementing improvements and re-assessing to know if students are grasping learning outcomes (“closing the loop”).

How does our assessment work?

The practice of assessment is woven throughout curricular and co-curricular programming. This page describes the innerworkings from the course level to programs to college-wide outcomes. Your CMC Academic Support Team is here to help you in this work.


A diagram with three rectangles (or boxes), one inside another, showing how course assessment is embedded in program assessment which is embedded in institutional assessment. Within each box are additional rectangles representing multiple student learning outcomes.

Course Assessment:

At the course level, Course Student Learning Outcomes (CLSOs) and Colorado Department of Higher Education’s GT Competencies or “Guaranteed Transfer” general education competencies) are assessed. Colorado Mountain College references the Colorado Community College System’s Common Course Numbering System for courses, including course student learning outcomes (CSLOs).

Most CMC courses are part of a larger program or collection of required courses, such as a degree or certificate program, general education course requirements, and CEPA (“Concurrent Enrollment Program at” CMC) course offerings. The CSLOs map to Program Learning Outcomes (or PSLOs) or GT Competencies.

In Canvas, GT Competencies, PSLOs, and ISLOs can be assessed at the course level using the “Outcomes” tools. Please review the tutorial videos in Learning Hub to learn the functionality of this feature that can embed assessment of SLOs in your courses and learning activities.

Program Assessment:

At the program level, Program Learning Outcomes (or PSLOs) exist for programs that lead to a credential, such as an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or a certificate program. Program directors and faculty are to assess, on a rotating basis, three to five PSLOs each year (unless there are other PSLO assessment requirements by program-specific accreditors, such as nursing). PSLO assessment can be informed through CSLO assessment. PSLOs map to and support ISLOs.

Programs, with involvement of all program faculty, are to submit an annual assessment report to SLAC (CMC’s Student Learning Assessment Committee) by mid-October. These assessment reports are reviewed by SLAC and included in each program’s 5-year Program Review. Over the course of five years, a program should have assessed all PSLOs at least once and closed the loop by re-assessing improvements. (Student learning assessment is just one of several elements of Program Review. Academic Council oversees the 5-year review process.)

Institutional Assessment:

At the institution level, ISLOs (Institutional Student Learning Outcomes) support Colorado Mountain College’s mission and are the learning outcomes we expect students who graduate from CMC to be able to know and do. The PSLOs, co-curricular learning outcomes, and GT Competencies map to the ISLOs. We can assess the ISLOs through these programs and outcomes as well as through the High Impact Practice of student ePortfolios, which are being implemented through a pilot in Fall 2022. Canvas Outcomes reports at the course, program, and college level can provide assessment data of learning mastery. In addition to direct assessment, ISLOs can be assessed through indirect assessments such as student college outcomes (retention and graduation rates and job placement), demographic data, student engagement surveys, alumni surveys, and more.

During 2022, CMC’s new ISLO Taskforce with cross-college representation is embarking on reviewing and updating the Institutional Student Learning Outcomes to best support the mission, students, and communities of CMC as well as align with CMC’s designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution. Please check CMC’s Basecamp for announcements, invitations, and updates.

Colorado Mountain College has adopted a new, more reflective structure for assessment reporting. Our goal is that all faculty practice assessment and focus on “improvement of student learning.” To ensure that faculty are well supported and that programs are conducting assessment, we ask these four primary questions in our reporting processes. (A variety of collection tools and platforms are used. For example, some reports are submitted online through MS Forms or Qualtrics.)

The Four Assessment Questions:

  1. What information/evidence/data did you gather to inform you about student learning for the outcomes you planned to assess?
  2. What did you discover? What were your conclusions?
  3. What do you plan to do the same and differently based on your discoveries about your students and their learning?
  4. What support or resources do you need to make your plans happen?

Assessment as Learning

Learning, and dare I say assessment, can and should be FUN! Active learning can happen through properly designed assessment methods. (Active learning strategies are described in the “Champions of Reimagined Assessment”, which is a series of brief videos describing alternative assessments. I encourage you to watch some of these to gain ideas for inclusive and equitable assessments that give students belonging and relevancy to their learning. Here are some examples of formative direct assessments that could be used in place of traditional assessments such as mid-semester exams:

A grid of rectangles listing the following alternative assessments in each rectangle: Minute-papers, Performances or role playing, Digital project/video reports, Student-developed exams/tests, Labs, Concept mapping exercises, Online escape room exam, Student-created Open Educational Resources, Collaborative annotation of reading (shared docs with commenting), Reflective blogs that can be housed in ePortfolios, Dipstick (e.g., think/pair/share), “Argue with Me” film-based debate with faculty

Sources: Talking About Teaching: The Future of Grading and Assessment (The Chronicle, 2022), Concept Mapping as an Assessment (2020), Champions of Reimagined Assessment (2022)

Consider assessment methods that not only let you as the professor know your students learned the outcome(s) but are inclusive for students who may not have previous knowledge or understanding. Constructing alternative assessments can take extra time and creativity, but the benefit to students and your own professional growth as an educator can be remarkable.

Student-Centered Assessment

The journal article "Equity and Assessment: Moving Towards Culturally Responsive Assessment" by Erick Montenegro and Natasha A. Jankowski (January 2017) provides evidence-based research about equity and assessment.

Here are some recommended assessment strategies for equity and inclusivity of students:

  • Spend the initial class getting students excited; focus very little on grades.
  • List all assignments for the course up front.
  • Provide explicit instructions of assessment, especially for group learning/projects.
  • Create detailed rubrics.
  • Conduct bias reviews of tests and other assessments.
  • Minimize disposable assessments, such as written exams.
  • Allow multiple attempts if needed for learning.
  • Allow lowest score dropping from grade.
  • Use a variety of assessments throughout the course.
  • Consider open notes/open book exams.
  • And...use a growth mindset! (What CAN be done?, our strengths vs. deficit, not doing, can't be done, etc.)

Concluding Focal Point:

Has the student truly learned? How can I as the instructor ensure my students learn the intended outcome(s)?