Assessment of Student Learning

Student success is at the heart of the RRCC mission and values. It is a Strategic Direction in the 2013-2018 RRCC Strategic Plan. Student learning takes place throughout the institution. Assessment of student learning outcomes is a fundamental tool for understanding how well we are accomplishing our mission and living up to RRCC values.   

At RRCC, we espouse the Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning established by the American Association of Higher Education in 1992.

  • Assessment makes a difference when it begins with issues and illuminates questions that people really care about.
  • Assessment works best when assessed programs have clear, explicitly stated purposes.
  • Assessment requires attention to both outcomes and the processes leading to those outcomes.
  • Assessment works best when it is ongoing rather than episodic, and when it recognizes learning as a multidimensional process revealed through performance over time.
  • Assessment is most likely to lead to improvements as part of a larger set of conditions that promote change.

At Red Rocks Community College, we recognize that student learning and student development are primary assessment concerns. However, we must also be concerned with the common learning outcomes across all instructional programs, the co-curricular efforts to develop essential learning outcomes, and the quality of the overall learning environment that supports all learning.

In all cases, the basic steps in the assessment process are:

  1. Clear measurable goals based on desirable outcomes,
  2. Learning experiences to achieve these goals,
  3. Explicit methods to determine how well student learning matched our expectations, and
  4. Using the results of these methods to confirm or improve learning.

The last review of RRCC Systems Portfolio in 2012 observed we had a great opportunity to document RRCC student performance on common learning outcomes at the institutional level. RRCC acted on this recommendation and, at the 2013 AQIP Strategy Forum, prioritized this area for quality improvement efforts. After surveys and discussion with faculty, students, staff, and community members, the RRCC Common Learning Outcomes Team established a set of six common learning outcomes. We are in the process of mapping these outcomes across the RRCC curriculum

RRCC Common Learning Outcomes

Academic Quality Improvement Project Action Project

RRCC instructional disciplines and programs have continuously assessed student learning outcomes as part of individual faculty performance and as part of instructional department efforts to improve curricula, teaching, and learning. Different faculty and departments have and continue to engage in a variety of assessment projects using a range of methods.

RRCC Instructional Department Assessment Projects and Methods

Direct Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes

  • Nationally normed instruments for specific disciplines (e.g. Physics)
  • National certification examinations  - Summative results & sub-scores
  • National board examination simulations
  • Shared test banks across a curricular sequence (e.g. Mathematics)
  • Writing sample assessment across a curricular sequence (e.g. English)
  • Photographic project records and portfolios
  • Juried exhibitions
  • Team project competition (e.g. National Science Foundation Innovation Challenge)
  • Individual skills competition (e.g. Cyber Defense, Speech, and Skilled Trades)
  • Pre and post tests
  • Capstone courses and exit examinations
  • Preceptor evaluation of clinical and internship students (e.g. Physician Assistant)

Indirect Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes

  • Employer and alumni surveys
  • Student focus groups
  • Tracking student success through course progressions
  • Course completion rates, especially for gateway courses
  • Transfer rates for students successfully completing course clusters
  • Student course completion and success by course delivery modality
  • Course success and satisfactory progress by student demographics
  • Comparison of “native” and transfer student success in a course sequence
  • Tracking entering students into STEM and other instructional pathways

While these projects and methods have all made important contributions to student learning at RRCC, we are now attempting to become more systemic in our approach to assessment of student learning outcomes. This new approach will integrate program student learning outcomes, common learning outcomes, and program review. The current draft overview of the new approach is called the iLearn project, an acronym for “Improve the Learning Environment at RRCC Now".


ILEARN is Red Rocks’ take on a guided, formalized, and comprehensive, program review.  Guided means that a framework has been mapped out with specific tasks to be completed over the course of four years.  Formalized means that there will be a systematic process of informed decision making and communication. By comprehensive, it means that instruction, student success, business services, student organizations, administrative units, special projects, etc. will participate in the evaluation process together. Comprehensive also means that the evaluation process will explore departmental growth, student learning, and budgetary needs.  For more information see

Integrated Student Learning Outcomes Assessment and Program Review

Division of Student Success

The RRCC Student Success Division has been an institutional leader in the development of program evaluation and assessing the results of student support services. The Division has assessed supplemental instruction, new advising and recruitment initiatives, institutional climate, and, through performance improvement task forces, internal operations such as the registration process. The Division has developed its own assessment plan which gives more details on projects, results, and improvements.

Assessment Plan