Criterion Three: Student Learning and Effective Teaching
The organization provides evidence of student learning and teaching effectiveness that demonstrates it is fulfilling its educational mission.
Co-Chair: Sharon Gardner | firstname.lastname@example.org | 230-5134 | WO203C
Co-Chair: Ken Taylor | email@example.com | 230-5321 | ED243
Cecilia Addington | firstname.lastname@example.org | 230-5411 | ME106
Margaret Hoskins | email@example.com | 230-5482 | MO319
Randy McCauley | firstname.lastname@example.org | 230-5637 | ED128
Basil Miller | email@example.com | 230-5317 | RE236
Holly Morado | firstname.lastname@example.org | 230-5532 | EV111J
Betty Ramsey | email@example.com | 230-5031 | Oliver
Phillip Schroeder | firstname.lastname@example.org | 230-5253 | RFA125
Bob Yehl | email@example.com | 230-5014 | HUIE
Criterion Three: Core Component 3a
The organization’s goals for student learning outcomes are clearly stated for each educational program and make effective assessment possible.
In crafting this Core Component, the Commission unambiguously embedded into its accreditation program its decade-long program to challenge affiliated organizations to create a culture of assessment. 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. The Commission’s ongoing commitment to this work is explained in its Statement
on Assessment of Student Learning.
Learning occurs in a variety of settings and at various stages of life. Significance should be placed on evidence
that is provided to show what a student has learned and what he/she can do because of the learning. Such an understanding provides a framework in which a variety of learning experiences—such as compressed or accelerated
degree programs, learning in asynchronous settings, and engaging in reflected learning—can be evaluated. In particular, the Commission expects institutions offering courses in accelerated, asynchronous, or other nontraditional
formats to be especially diligent in documenting that students achieve the mastery of skills, competencies, and knowledge expected in established courses or traditional curricula or in keeping with predetermined learning
Regardless of the circumstance, the credit hour remains an important means of quantifying study and learning and a mechanism by which institutions accept completed courses in transfer or assess and recognize prior learning. Higher education today requires new approaches to the way credit hours are assigned and awarded. The traditional Carnegie formula based heavily on the amount of seat time associated with a purported learning
experience does not address current learning situations. How much students study inside or outside of formal classes, expectations associated with the course, student preparation, cogency of the learning experience, and
pedagogical methods all contribute to the significance of a learning experience. Therefore, the Commission does not expect every institution to follow the traditional Carnegie formula, but it does require institutions that base their credit hour assignments on other factors to have policies that explain and justify how they consistently reach sound decisions about how to recognize college learning.
Assessment of student learning is a process, and the process must have results foundational to the education of
● 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.
While the Core Component identifies the outcomes of strong assessment, the proposed evidence includes tested
best practices in assessment as a means to achieve those outcomes.
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 organization’s assessment of student learning extends to all educational offerings, including credit
and noncredit 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 organization’s program to assess
Criterion Three: Core Component 3b
The organization values and supports effective teaching.
Some have argued that the Commission should focus only on learning in these new Criteria. Unless learning is achieved, according to this view, we should not care about teaching. Others argue that all colleges and universities must shift from the view that they exist for teaching to the view that they exist for learning. But the fact is that whether or not the emphasis of teaching shifts from delivering information to supporting students in creating
knowledge from information gleaned from multiple sources, teaching must be done.
The narrow definition of teaching as essentially giving lectures and grading exams misrepresents the multifaceted work that goes into effective teaching. Organizations providing higher learning must have qualified faculties—people who by formal education or tested experience know what students must learn—who create the curricular pathways through which students gain the competencies and skills they need. Effective faculty members understand that students learn in very different ways. The organization encourages and supports their efforts to respond to diverse learning needs.
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
● Faculty members actively participate in professional organizations relevant to the disciplines
Criterion Three: Core Component 3c
The organization creates effective learning environments.
Colleges have created multiple learning environments, perhaps without being conscious of the pedagogical rationales behind them. Many graduate and upper-division courses have long used seminar formats instead of lectures, but now students of the freshman-year experience propose that freshman seminars might help student success and retention. Faculty–student research, once the purview of graduate education, now marks much undergraduate education. Internships and applied courses basic to good vocational education are now seen to be excellent ways for students to learn in the humanities and social sciences. Study abroad is a very specific learning environment. So too are new computer-based learning labs.
Research about factors that contribute to effective student learning can no longer be ignored. How students interact with other students is often as important as how they interact with faculty, but effective interaction is essential. Mentoring and advising, once thought to be primarily a faculty task, may now be found throughout an organization, particularly in the student services area. All these variables contribute to learning environments, electronic as well as face-to-face. Faculty members are coming to appreciate how they contribute to these environments, fully understanding that the classroom experience is only one part of any learning environment.
Examples of Evidence
● Assessment results inform improvements in curriculum, pedagogy, instructional resources, and student
● 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
● The organization’s systems of quality assurance include regular review of whether its educational strategies,
activities, processes, and technologies enhance student learning.
Criterion Three: Core Component 3d
The organization’s learning resources support student learning and effective teaching.
It was not that long ago that accreditation was understood to focus rather heavily on resources in the library. Accrediting teams counted staff members and the square footage allocated to the library and to book inventories.
Unless libraries are used and valued by students and faculty, their impact on learning is small. In short, a library—or a learning resource center—exists to support learning and teaching. To make learning resources an integral part
of a student’s education, an organization will have to invest in appropriate materials and equipment and provide the staff that can maintain these resources, train students in their use, and provide assistance when it is needed. Colleges and universities should enter into formal agreements with other organizations upon whose learning resources their students depend.
Libraries are just one of many resources needed to support learning. Science education requires laboratories; arts education requires studios and performance space; and many programs require sites at which students can practice their professions under supervision. Increasingly, organizations cannot own all of these resources. They find ways to share them, or they discover that technology provides access unimaginable barely ten years ago. The test for accreditation is no longer ownership. Instead, it evaluates the organization’s understanding of what resources are needed for effective learning and teaching and its creative ways of linking faculty and students to the resources and making sure they are used. Consequently, it is critical for colleges and universities to assess actual student use of
equipment, materials, and media, collecting evidence that something worthwhile is happening to students because learning resources exist. Each organization must determine how, where, and in what form to collect this
information, and the effective use of the information to improve learning resources depends on an organization’s traditions, structure, orientation, and particular situation.
Examples of Evidence
● The organization ensures access to the resources (such as 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
● The organization regularly assesses the effectiveness of its learning resources to support learning and
● 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.