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                                            Common Assessment Words and Definitions


A process of describing and determining the worth of something.


Tools by which to collect the data needed to explore results and ultimately improve upon the program by improving student learning. 

 Formative Evaluation

Can occur with anything needing evaluation.  At the course level, assessing program improvement during the course being evaluated to allow for instantaneous modifications to the teaching to enhance learning.  Formative evaluations can be thought of as "practice" assessments that are on-going throughout the term.  They are used by the student and teacher to gauge what the student is learning. 

 Summative Evaluation

Can occur with anything needing evaluation.  At the course level, assessing the entirety of the course by placing evaluation items at the end of the course.  These are the most common usage of evaluating the effectiveness of the program and are used at the end of a section, term, or year.  They are used to make judgments about the individual's competency or mastery level in that subject.


The rational, major assumptions, objectives, learning outcomes, experiences and educational practices that define the content of instruction leading to one or a cluster of related credentials.  HCC has one associate in arts program and numerous associate in science programs, each with distinct learning outcomes.

 Instructional Area

A set of unique courses related to each other by content or subject area.

  Student Learning Outcomes

Measurable statements of what a student is expected to learn as a result of the program defined in terms of the student.

 General Education Outcomes

Similar to the definition of the Student Learning Outcome where the program evaluated is the associate of arts degree.

 Cluster Outcomes

For curriculum clusters 1 through 6, the specific student learning outcomes related to the cluster disciplines and to the general education outcomes.

  Program Objectives

Discipline-specific and usually quantifiable statements of program achievements that can include but not limited to Student Learning Outcomes.  The statements do not have to be student focused or relate specifically to learning.


A rule of principle that is used as a basis for judgment.


A standard of judgment or criticism by rule or principle.