Assessment at UNCW

UNCW Learning Goals

The four categories of student learning articulated in the university's mission-creative inquiry, critical thinking, thoughtful expression and responsible citizenship-give rise to eight learning goals for every baccalaureate graduate of UNCW. These goals capture the skills and expected student learning outcomes needed to ensure breadth of learning characteristic of a liberal education (the goal of a general education program).

Foundational Knowledge

Students will acquire foundational knowledge, theories, and perspectives in a variety of disciplines.

Foundational knowledge comprises the facts, theories, principles, methods, skills, terminology and modes of reasoning that are essential to more advanced or independent learning in an academic discipline.


Students will engage in rigorous, open-minded and imaginative inquiry.

Inquiry is the systematic and analytic investigation of an issue or problem with the goal of discovery. Inquiry involves the clear statement of the problem, issue or question to be investigated; examination of relevant existing knowledge; design of an investigation process; analysis of the complexities of the problem, clear rationale supporting conclusions; and identification of limitations of the analysis.

Information Literacy

Students will locate, evaluate, and effectively use information by applying a variety of academic and technological skills.

Information literacy is the ability "to recognize when information is needed and to locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed information." [American Library Association. (1989) American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Final Report. Chicago.] Demonstrating information literacy involves determining the extent of information needed, accessing the needed information, critically evaluating the information, organizing the information to accomplish a specific purpose, and using the information ethically and legally.

Critical Thinking

 Students will integrate multiple methods and perspectives to critically examine complex problems.

Critical thinking is "skilled, active interpretation and evaluation of observations, communications, information and argumentation." [Fisher and Scriven. (1997) Critical Thinking: Its Definition and Assessment, Center for Research in Critical Thinking (UK)/Edgepress (US).] Critical thinking involves a clear explanation of relevant issues, skillful investigation of evidence, purposeful judgments about the influence of context or assumptions, reasoned creation of one's own perspective, and synthesis of evidence and implications from which conclusions are drawn. 

Thoughtful Expression

Students will effectively express meaningful ideas in speech and writing.

Thoughtful expression is the ability to communicate, orally and in writing, meaningful ideas in an organized, reasoned and convincing manner. Thoughtful expression involves a purpose responsive to an identified audience, effective organization, insightful reasoning and supporting detail, style appropriate to the relevant discipline, purposeful use of sources and evidence, and error-free syntax and mechanics.

Second Language

Students will demonstrate basic proficiency in speaking, listening, writing and reading in a language in addition to English.

Second language is used to describe basic proficiency in speaking, listening, writing and reading in a language other than English that is sufficient for interaction and comprehension. This includes American Sign Language, but not computer languages.


Students will describe and examine the importance and implications of human diversity.

Diversity constitutes the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to examine the importance and implications of cultural and ethnic human differences. Diversity examines the significance of historical, political, social, racial, ethnic and cultural realities through critical thinking to understand and explain their implications in human endeavors.

Global Citizenship

Students will describe and examine the intellectual and ethical responsibilities of active global citizenship.

Global citizenship is characterized by the ability to evaluate large-scale impacts of historical, scientific, economic, political cultural and artistic perspectives on individuals, societies and our environment; and by participation in efforts to make the world a better place.