Assessment at UNCW

UNCW and NILOA Transparency Framework

UNCW uses processes for assessing student learning that are informed by best practices, including the NILOA Transparency Framework. Yet, like all institutions, these processes are rooted in UNCW institutional values. The
following discussion is organized around the six components of the NILOA Transparency Framework.

 Student Learning Outcomes Statements               

UNCW has over 100 degree- and certificate-granting programs. Each program has adopted a set of student learning outcomes that describe what graduates will know and be able to do. They are specific to the degree or certificate, informed by practices in the discipline and relevant accrediting bodies, and reflect what the program faculty determine is essential to the degree being granted. Student learning outcomes are provided to students in a number of ways, for example in syllabi and on each department’s website.

UNCW has adopted campus-wide Learning Goals. Degree and credential programs align student learning outcomes to these goals. In addition, University Studies, the UNCW general education program, aligns its component student learning outcomes to the UNCW Learning Goals. Each course taught in a component of University Studies has SLOs that are aligned to the component SLOs. Information about University Studies components and SLOs is found in the Curriculum Overview.

 Assessment Plans

Assessment plans at UNCW consist of specific measures for each student learning outcome (as well as program outcomes), and contain detailed implementation plans. The majority of student learning outcomes are assessed using course-based assessment. For content knowledge, a number of programs also administer standardized tests, such as the ETS Major Field Tests in Computer Science and Political Science.

Through the 2014-2015 academic year, assessment plans and reports were written and submitted in the Assessment Report Template. Starting with the 2015-2016 assessment cycle, reports are completed in Taskstream AMS. See Assessment Planning and Reporting for information and guidance on the components of assessment reports.

Example assessment plans for student learning outcomes:

  • BA Communication Studies: Students will be able to construct an effective written argument or media product based on thorough audience analysis and clear rhetorical objectives.
    All COM 400 students complete an Informational Interview Assignment that is scored using an assessment rubric developed around the five canons of rhetoric.
  • Writing Intensive Component of University Studies: Thoughtful Expression: Written
    At least once every three years, representative courses from the Writing Intensive Component are selected for participation in the general education assessment process. The instructors of each selected course choose an assignment that they believe gives students a good opportunity to demonstrate their writing abilities. Student work for these assignments is collected and scored independently by a group of faculty that are trained on the AAC&U VALUE Written Communication Rubric.
  Assessment Resources 

UNCW provides many resources to help faculty plan and conduct assessment at the program and course levels, including courses selected for participation in general education assessment. In addition, each college and schools has an assessment director or other designated individual to help guide instructors and answer questions. The assessment directors work one-on-one with departments, and regularly provide workshops, at which faculty from across the university can share current practices and learn ways to improve assessment methods and use results for improvement. The Assessment and Planning webpages provide step-by-step information about creating student learning and program outcomes, developing assessment plans, reporting assessment findings, developing actions for improvement, and following up on those actions. Materials from workshops provided in the College of Arts and Sciences can be found CAS Workshop Materials

See Assessment and Teaching Resources.

See General Education Assessment Resources.

 Current Assessment Activities

Here at UNCW, we are engaged in many current assessment activities, at the program, college, and university level. The Learning Assessment Council (LAC) meets regularly during the year to coordinate activities at the various level and increase the flow of assessment findings. Assessment activities are documented at

General Education Assessment

Watson College of Education Assessment

College of Arts and Sciences Assessing Student Learning

Cameron School of Business Assurance of Learning

Assessment in Academic Programs

Assessment in Support and Service Programs

Student Affairs Assessment

In 2014 UNCW was awarded a grant from UNC General Administration to conduct a pilot for using eportfolios for assessing written communication and critical thinking. The pilot was structured in two phases. In the first phase, the pilot committee evaluated a number of available platforms. In the second phase, six mini-pilots were implemented in nine courses across the univeristy. Student work within the eportfolios was assessed using the AAC&U VALUE Rubrics within the eportfolio system. The findings indicated that eportfolios enhanced student learning. The findings also indicated that, when compared to the current general education assessment process, assessment using eportfolios provided no advantages and decreased the collaboration between scorers.

In 2015 UNCW adopted Taskstream AMS for the collection of annual program assessment reports. A series of trainings took place in 2016 that not only addressed the technical issues associated with Taskstream AMS, but also provided opportunities for faculty members to share practices among departments and learn from each other. Faculty receive feedback on their assessment reports and process from college and school assessment directors.

In the 2016-2017 academic year, General Education Assessment is completing the final year of a three-year assessment cycle through all eight UNCW Learning Goals and all 17 components of University Studies. This year, with guidance from the University Studies Advisory Committee and the Learning Assessment Council, the Office of General Education Assessment is developing the plan for the next three-year cycle.

  Evidence of Student Learning

Evidence of student learning is collect at the university, program, and course levels. A full description of general education assessment can be found at General Education Assessment and a description of degree and certificate level assessment at Assessment Planning and Reporting. Direct measures of student learning and success are collected and reported by the Office of Institutional Research and Planning. Once data is collected, findings are compiled into a form that is useable by the program faculty. Programs share the assessment findings in a number of ways, for example, with all faculty at a faculty meeting so that the results can be discussed and the unique perspectives of all faculty members can be factored into decisions, with program reviewers, and with advisory boards.

Examples of evidence of student learning:

  • In 2015-2016, the BA Films Studies faculty double-scored more than 20% of graduating senior portfolios consisting of a critical studies research paper and a film sample. Assessment results showed that students successfully demonstrated that the critical study of cinema informs their filmmaking, with the average rubric score of 2.65 out of 3.
  • In 2015-2016, the BA English multiply scored 12 capstone papers drawn at random from three sections of ENG 495 taught by three different members of the faculty. Results showed that 94% of the papers cited and used primary and/or secondary sources appropriately, 84% had clear, logical, and complex arguments built on appropriate evidence, and 81% successfully critically analyzed literary and/or cultural texts.
  • In 2015-2016, student work from lower-division and upper-division courses was collected and scored by faculty on Information Literacy skills. Results showed strengths in accessing information and using it effectively. A major area for improvement is critically evaluating information. Scores were higher in 300- and 400- level courses than in lower level courses, although not statistically so.
  Use of Student Learning Evidence

Once evidence of student learning is discussed, faculty determine whether the evidence demonstrates that students are meeting expectations or whether action for improvement is necessary.

Examples of recent actions for improvement include:

  • Based on results of assessment of capstone projects, the BA International Studies faculty has made Information Literacy a greater focus of INT 300 and INT 490.
  • Based on results of the DUCK exam, the BS Chemistry faculty has increased the number of credits for CHM 235 from two to three so that the study of acid/base chemistry can be augmented.
  • In the Masters in Coastal and Ocean Policy program, which is a fairly new program, faculty determined that the adopted capstone rubric would benefit from simplification and balancing of milestones across the dimensions.
  • In 2015-2016, UNCW held a Year of Thinking Critically about Critical Thinking. Speakers were invited to campus and campus experts provided workshops and forums that resulted in changes to coursework to improve student critical thinking skills.
  • Based on general education assessment findings on critical thinking, conversations during the Year of Thinking Critically about Critical Thinking, faculty surveys, and registrar data, University Studies, UNCW’s general education curriculum, has created a new Critical Reasoning component. This component becomes effective in 2017-2018.


National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. (2011). Transparency Framework. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA). Retrieved from: