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University of Wisconsin - Whitewater Learning Outcomes

The assessment of student learning outcomes at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater provides feedback to facilitate the continuous quality improvement of individual courses, degree programs, and the overall student experience. Campus baccalaureate student learning outcomes were adopted in 2010, and each academic program aligns its student learning outcomes with this overall campus framework.

Our campus conducts a comprehensive review of every academic program on campus every five years. Evaluation of the program’s assessment processes and data are a central part of this Audit & Review process. Assessment data are regularly gathered internally and externally at the course, department, and university levels using both perceptual (indirect) and performance (direct) measures. Some of the indirect methods include surveys of alumni, graduating seniors, continuing and new students, employers, and interns, along with focus groups and advisory board or external consultant reviews. Beyond course level direct assessments such as research papers, exams, case studies and performance appraisals, Whitewater students demonstrate their learning by completing capstone courses, assembling portfolios of their work, passing professional licensure exams, graduate school admissions, satisfying internship or practicum supervisors, and securing work in their fields. Campus-level assessments of baccalaureate student learning outcomes (such as writing, oral communication, critical thinking, and information literacy) are also conducted periodically, and graduating seniors are surveyed each semester to gather information on how well students feel they have achieved the campus learning outcomes. The feedback from these sources are used by academic departments to improve the curriculum, change procedures, update course content, modify instructional practices, and refine assessment methods.

In addition, the campus level Essential Learning & Assessment Review Committee (ELARC) reviews data from both curricular and co-curricular units across campus to provide a 'big picture' view of student learning. ELARC identifies themes and makes recommendations to improve teaching, assessment and resource allocation. Complete information about assessment at UW-Whitewater is available at the webpage for the Office of Academic Assessment (see link below).

The Office of Academic Affairs is committed to the pursuit of excellence in all of the University's academic activities. The Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost seeks to attract and retain the best faculty and to assist them in offering an outstanding education for UW-Whitewater students.

Learning Assessment Examples

University of Wisconsin - Whitewater administered the ACT CAAP in 2015.

University of Wisconsin - Whitewater conducted a Value-added administration of the ACT CAAP in 2015. The results are displayed below in the SLO Results tab.

For additional information on UWW’s process for administering ACT CAAP, please click on the Assessment Process Tab below. For information on the students included in the administration, please click the Students Tested Tab.

Why did you choose the ACT CAAP for your institutional assessment?

The Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency (CAAP) measures critical thinking and written communication, which are two of our campus student learning outcomes. Our campus uses additional measures to assess other student learning outcomes, including course-embedded assignments, campus-developed rubrics based in part on the AACU VALUE rubrics, and other national tests such as ETS Major Field Tests,  the ACT iSkills test, and the Critical Thinking Assessment Test, or CAT.

Which University of Wisconsin - Whitewater students are assessed? When?

Samples of students in every program on campus are assessed every year through embedded assessments within their courses. Periodically, samples of students are assessed with other measures.

  • Most recently (2015), the CAAP test was used to assess critical thinking and writing skills in beginning freshmen and graduating seniors. For both skills, seniors scored significantly higher than freshmen.
  • Assessments of student performance are also conducted as part of campus projects and initiatives. Recently, these assessments have focused on students’ writing, oral presentation, critical thinking, and information literacy skills, often as part of projects to develop campus assessment rubrics.
    • The Writing Still Matters assessment project (2011)evaluated student writing samples and found that the quality and effectiveness of writing improves significantly from freshman to senior year. By senior year, however, only 50% of student writing met the standards expected for graduating students. At the senior level, writing is stronger in the areas of focus, thesis, use of evidence, and documentation, and relatively weaker in analysis, interpretation, language use, and conventional grammar.
    • Writing essay scores from the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency(CAAP, administered 2009-2010) showed that UWW seniors scored significantly higher in writing than did freshmen, and both freshmen and seniors scored higher than the national average. UWW students come to college better prepared in writing than their national peers, and their writing skills improve significantly while they are here.
    • Results from the Critical Thinking Assessment Test (CAT) in 2010 showed that upper-level students outperformed first- and second-year students, and that both groups scored at or above the national average. Students showed strengths in applying information to real-world problem situations and in providing alternative explanations, but were weaker in appropriately summarizing patterns of results, evaluating and interpreting information.
    • A large campus project in 2011-2012assessed almost 1000 students at sophomore, senior, and masters levels using the CAT to assess critical thinking skills, the ETS iSkills Test to assess information literacy skills, the UWW Writing Matters rubric to assess writing skills, and the College Basic Academic Subjects Examination to assess general knowledge. Master’s and bachelor’s students differed in their academic and cognitive outcomes. Consistent differences were not found between students at associate’s and at bachelor’s degree levels, a result that was surprising as well as inconsistent with previous findings.

How are assessment data collected?

Data on student learning flow up from courses, departments, colleges, and other units to the university's central Essential Learning & Assessment Review Committee (ELARC; (http://www.uww.edu/acadaff/assessment/elarc), which reviews the data and integrates findings from across campus, using AACU's LEAP as the central organizing framework. The committee’s process of collating data from across campus, identifying and discussing themes, and making data-based recommendations provides a ‘big picture’ view of assessment at UW-W, summarizing what we know about student achievement of campus SLOs, what we still need to learn, and how we can use the data to improve student learning. In addition, data on student learning from academic units is summarized every five years and submitted to the university’s Audit and Review Committee as part of the university’s program review process. Data are also discussed at the individual program level and, in some colleges, reports are submitted to college assessment committees for review and discussion. Results from all these reports are included in unit summaries to ELARC and become part of the campus discussion.

Increasingly, assessment of SLOs also takes place in co-curricular units (a broad range of outside-of-classroom, non-credit-bearing, student engagement opportunities), with data gathered by our Student Affairs division. Assessment in Student Affairs has focused on holistic learning outcomes addressing a variety of student development considerations, including students' critical thinking, ethical reasoning and action, social learning (including teamwork and problem solving), oral communication, and intercultural knowledge and competence.

How are data reported within University of Wisconsin - Whitewater?

The Essential Learning & Assessment Review Committee (ELARC) reviews assessment data from across campus and uses the data to make recommendations to improve teaching, learning, and assessment at UW-Whitewater (http://www.uww.edu/acadaff/assessment/elarc). The committee focuses on data related to student achievement of the UWW baccalaureate learning goals, currently defined as the LEAP essential learning outcomes from the Association of American Colleges & Universities. ELARC reports and recommendations are circulated and discussed with a large number of campus constituent groups.  Individual colleges and units review and discuss data on student learning, making use of the findings as they consider changes within courses as well as broader curricular revisions.

In addition: 

  • Results of campus-level surveys are posted on campus websites (e.g., Institutional Research and Planning; Academic Assessment) for easy access by the campus community and the public; and
  • Assessment projects and results are shared within the campus community during our Assessment Day (http://www.uww.edu/acadaff/assessment/aday) and LEAP Day events (http://www.uww.edu/LEAP/leap-day-2016).


How are assessment data at UWW used to guide program improvements?

The Essential Learning & Assessment Review Committee (ELARC) distills findings from campus units into a report of 6-8 highlights and recommended actions. The report is shared across campus. ELARC monitors campus progress in meeting the recommended actions. Reports in subsequent years include information about assessments of student learning as well as progress toward addressing the recommended actions.  In addition, every academic program on campus undergoes a review every five years as part of our campus program review process. An important part of this review requires that programs describe their processes for assessing student learning, results from their assessments, and how the information has been used for program improvement. Finally, individual programs and colleges review and discuss assessment data as they consider program revisions and strategic planning.

Of 2379 freshmen students eligible to be tested, 427 (18%) were included in the tested sample at University of Wisconsin - Whitewater.

Of 3014 senior students eligible to be tested, 425 (14%) were included in the tested sample at University of Wisconsin - Whitewater.

Probability sampling, where a small randomly selected sample of a larger population can be used to estimate the learning gains in the entire population with statistical confidence, provides the foundation for campus-level student learning outcomes assessment at many institutions. It's important, however, to review the demographics of the tested sample of students to ensure that the proportion of students within a given group in the tested sample is close to the proportion of students in that group in the total population. Differences in proportions don't mean the results aren't valid, but they do mean that institutions need to use caution in interpreting the results for the groups that are under-represented in the tested sample.

Undergraduate Student Demographic Breakdown

  Freshmen Seniors
Eligible Students Tested Students Eligible Students Tested Students
Gender Female 47% 44% 51% 52%
Male 53% 56% 49% 48%
Other or Unknown <1% <1% <1% <1%
US Underrepresented Minority 15% 14% 12% 12%
White / Caucasian 74% 83% 86% 83%
International 1% <1% 1% 1%
Unknown <1% <1% <1% <1%
Low-income (Eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant) 28% 32% 43% 40%

The VSA advises institutions to follow assessment publisher guidelines for determining the appropriate number of students to test. In the absence of publisher guidelines, the VSA provides sample size guidelines for institutions based on a 95% confidence interval and 5% margin of error. So long as the tested sample demographics represent the student body, this means we can be 95% certain that the "true" population learning outcomes are with +/- 5% of the reported results. For more information on Sampling, please refer to the Research Methods Knowledge Base

The increase in learning on the performance task is at or near what would be expected at an institution testing students of similar academic abilities.

The increase in learning on the analytic writing task is at or near what would be expected at an institution testing students of similar academic abilities.

Writing Detail

The charts below show the distribution of student scores on the ACT CAAP Written Communication Test. The ACT CAAP Written Communication Test is scored on a rubric with scores ranging from 1 to 6 at intervals of .5 with 6 representing a higher or better score. Each student’s response is scored by two raters; the ratings distributions for each rater are shown below. The Overall Writing Score is an average of the two ratings

Critical Thinking Detail

The chart below shows the distribution of student scores on the ACT CAAP Critical Thinking Test. Students receive a scaled score between 1 and 80, with 80 representing a higher or better score