Student Learning and Effective Teaching

Criterion 3: Student Learning and Effective Teaching

The organization provides evidence of student learning and teaching effectiveness that demonstrates it is fulfilling its educational mission.

Criteria 3-5 are rooted in the historic understanding of the roles of universities in society—teaching, research, and service. In new Criterion Three, the Commission makes clear that teaching that does not lead to student learning cannot be called effective. In short, the test of teaching is in the learning achieved by students. The wording of the Criterion makes an important shift from emphasizing process to emphasizing evaluation of evidence. Moreover, the evidence needs to show that results of the learning and teaching are directly related to the educational mission stated by the organization.

Core Component 3a: The organization’s goals for student learning outcomes are clearly stated for each educational program and make effective assessment possible.

An organization needs to be accountable to itself and to its constituencies, to be clear about what it intends students to know and to do, and to find ways of learning whether, as a result of the education provided, students actually know and can do. The culture of assessment ought to extend to all education and training provided by the organization, not simply to the degree programs it offers.

  • Assessment of student learning is a process, and the process must have results foundational to the education of students.
  • The results should testify to achievement of stated goals for learning.
  • The results should enable the organization to strengthen and improve the capacity for student learning.
  • The results should have credibility with the faculty responsible for creating effective learning environments.
  • The results should have such credibility that they shape budgeting and planning priorities.

As it defines and interprets evidence related to this core component, an organization may wish to consider the following examples of evidence.

  • The organization clearly differentiates its learning goals for undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate programs by identifying the expected learning outcomes for each.
  • Assessment of student learning provides evidence at multiple levels: course, program, and institutional.
  • Assessment of student learning includes multiple direct and indirect measures of student learning.
  • Results obtained through assessment of student learning are available to appropriate constituencies, including students themselves.
  • The organization integrates into its processes for assessment of student learning and uses the data reported for purposes of external accountability (e.g., graduation rates, passage rates on licensing exams; placement rates; transfer rates).
  • The organizations assessment of student learning extends to all educational offerings, including credit and non-credit certificate programs.
  • Faculty are involved in defining expected student learning outcomes and creating the strategies to determine whether those outcomes are achieved.
  • Faculty and administrators routinely review the effectiveness of the organizations program to assess student learning.

Core Component 3b: The organization values and supports effective teaching.

As it defines and interprets evidence related to this core component, an organization may wish to consider the following examples of evidence.

  • Qualified faculty determine curricular content and strategies for instruction.
  • The organization supports professional development designed to facilitate teaching suited to varied learning environments.
  • The organization evaluates teaching and recognizes effective teaching.
  • The organization provides services to support improved pedagogies.
  • The organization demonstrates openness to innovative practices that enhance learning.
  • The organization supports faculty in keeping abreast of the research on teaching and learning, and of technological advances that can positively affect student learning and the delivery of instruction.
  • Faculty members actively participate in professional organizations relevant to the disciplines they teach.

Core Component 3c: The organization creates effective learning environments.

As it defines and interprets evidence related to this core component, an organization may wish to consider the following examples of evidence.

  • Assessment results inform improvements in curriculum, pedagogy, instructional resources, and student services.
  • The organization provides an environment that supports all learners and respects the diversity they bring.
  • Advising systems focus on student learning, including the mastery of skills required for academic success.
  • Student development programs support learning throughout the student’s experience regardless of the location of the student.
  • The organization employs, when appropriate, new technologies that enhance effective learning environments for students.
  • The organizations systems of quality assurance include regular review of whether its educational strategies, activities, processes, and technologies enhance student learning.

Core Component 3d: The organization’s learning resources support student learning and effective teaching.

As it defines and interprets evidence related to this core component, an organization may wish to consider the following examples of evidence.

  • The organization ensures access to the resources (e.g., research laboratories, libraries, performance spaces, clinical practice sites) necessary to support learning and teaching.
  • The organization evaluates the use of its learning resources to enhance student learning and effective teaching.
  • The organization regularly assesses the effectiveness of its learning resources to support learning and teaching.
  • The organization supports students, staff, and faculty in using technology effectively.
  • The organization provides effective staffing and support for its learning resources.
  • The organization’s systems and structures enable partnerships and innovations that enhance student learning and strengthen teaching effectiveness.
  • Budgeting priorities reflect that improvement in teaching and learning is a core value of the organization.

*The material on this page is taken from the Higher Learning Commission Handbook of Accreditation.