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A-Z Listing

Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP)

AQIP is an accreditation pathway for post-secondary institutions managed by the HLC. It is focused on quality assurance, institutional improvement, and continuous quality improvement.

Note: PCC’s seven year strategic plan, “Destination 2022: Imperatives for Student Success” is a document that provides a comprehensive overview of goals and key performance indicators for PCC’s continuous quality improvement. 


Accreditation is a process of validation by which colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher learning ensure that the higher education learning experiences meet acceptable levels of quality.


Assessments may measure student learning and performance via a range of activities and assignments that give students the opportunity to demonstrate essential skills and knowledge indicative of the specific dimensions of the learning outcome to be assessed. Activities may include formative and summative assessments, group projects, portfolio reviews, etc.


Alignment refers to the linking of intended student learning outcomes at each level (course, program, and institutional) to ensure that all students progress through a sequence of courses designed to foster and document the outcomes that define achievement in the discipline and in broader areas of learning.


A continuous process used by educators using a wide variety of methods or tools to evaluate, measure, and document the academic readiness, learning progress, skill acquisition, or educational needs of students.

Note: Assessment of Student Learning is focused on student achievement and NOT evaluation of instructors.

(See also: Rubric, as rubrics are referred to as “Assessments” in eLumen)

Closing the Loop

Closing the loop refers to follow-up actions that occur after interpreting assessment results to identify gaps in learning and opportunities for improvement. The assessment “loop” is an ongoing, recursive process, so “closing” that loop does not mean ending that cycle but rather beginning its next step: implementing improvements based on the findings. Quite the opposite of “closing out” an assessment project, “closing the loop” should instead be seen as the catalyst for an improvement plan (See also: Improvement Plan).


Course-level Student Learning Outcomes are objectives that must be achieved in order for students to attain the desired knowledge and skills established for the course. Each course has CSLOs that are common to all sections of the course offered across the Colorado Community College System and are listed as “Standard Competencies” in the CCCS Common Course Numbering System (CCNS) database.

Dimensions/SLO Criteria

The “dimensions” (or rows) of an assessment rubric differentiate the specific skills or narrowed components of the SLO is to be assessed.

Direct Assessment

A direct assessment gathers tangible evidence of what students have and have not learned based on student performance that demonstrates the learning itself. Examples include class assignments, essays, presentations, test results, projects, portfolios, and directly observed simulations or task performance demonstrations.


PCC’s assessment software platform is eLumen, a commercial web-based assessment program used to manage the process of collecting and analyzing assessment data at the course, program, and institutional levels.

Embedded Assessment

An embedded assessment is a means of gathering information about student learning that is built into and a natural part of the teaching-learning process. Classroom assignments that are evaluated to assign students a grade can often also be used to assess individual student achievement of established learning outcomes.

Formative Assessment

Formal and informal assessment procedures, including diagnostic testing, are conducted by teachers during the learning process in order to modify teaching and learning activities so that student learning continuously improves.

Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

The Higher Learning Commission accredits degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in the North Central region of the United States.

Improvement Plan

An improvement plan identifies gaps in student learning revealed through previous assessment activities and outlines specific action steps to be taken in order to fill those gaps. Improvement plans may include changes to instruction, course content, curriculum, rubrics, or the assessment process.

Indirect Assessment

An indirect assessment acquires evidence of students’ own impressions of their learning rather than actual demonstrations of outcome achievement. Examples include surveys, questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, and reflective essays.


Institution-level Student Learning Outcomes (ISLOs) are college-wide objectives for student learning and describe the knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes that all PCC graduates are expected to have developed throughout their overall educational experience, including courses, programs, and student services. Formerly called General Education Learning Outcomes (GELOs), PCC’s ISLOs reflect our shared values and goals for all PCC students, no matter their program, major, or career path.

Mastery Level

The scoring scale that categorizes the stages of student learning along a spectrum of growth toward mastery (e.g. Beginning, Developing, Accomplished, Exemplary).


Norming, or calibration, is a process that brings a group of faculty raters together to develop a shared understanding of the language of a rubric and the outcome it assesses, discover any need for editing of the rubric, and strengthen scoring consistency.


eLumen structures academic units according to what they call “Organizations.” Within the institution (the largest organization), “Departments” oversee groups of similar disciplines, usually sharing one or more “Department Coordinators” (i.e. Chairs). “Programs” within these Departments are generally defined by a shared course prefix (with some minor exceptions).

Outcomes Map

Mapping out how our SLOs align allows us to only assess once using our more specific course or program rubrics while still aggregating valuable information about where and how well students are learning and mastering PCC’s more general outcomes—eLumen calculates it for us!

Performance Descriptor

A performance descriptor specifically describes a learning outcome in terms of observable and measurable behaviors. The narrative description specifies what a person who has the qualities articulated in the outcome knows or can do at various levels of mastery.


Faculty and Department Chairs “plan” assessment activities for particular courses and programs along with corresponding rubrics for evaluating student performance on these activities. In eLumen, “planning an assessment” is the language used to describe “distributing” or “assigning” a rubric to a course or section for assessment.


Program- or Prefix-level Student Learning Outcomes are objectives that apply to the overall program or discipline in that they describe the general knowledge or skills that a student should have upon completing coursework in the discipline. These objectives are broader than course SLOs and can be assessed by numerous methods across multiple courses in the program.


An assessment (or rubric) is a way of consistently and accurately measuring student performance on particular learning outcome(s) across settings, assignments, and disciplines. Rubrics contain 3 key components: Dimensions, Mastery Levels, and Performance Descriptors (see glossary entries for each component for more information).

Student Artifact

A student artifact is work produced directly by the student, offering concrete, documented evidence of learning and performance. Examples include papers, projects, presentation slides, etc. that represent a student’s knowledge, skill, and achievement of identified goals and learning outcomes.

Student Learning Outcome (SLO)

A Student Learning Outcome (SLO) is a succinct statement of an educational goal (e.g., knowledge or skill) that students are expected to demonstrate during their time in college.

SLOs often range in specificity according to the level at which they are expected: Course-level outcomes (CSLOs) are to be demonstrated upon completion of a particular course; Program-level outcomes (PSLOs) upon completion of a particular degree or certificate program; and Institution-level outcomes (ISLOs) upon graduation.

Summative Assessment

Evaluation of student learning, skill, acquisition, and academic achievement at the conclusion of an instructional period – typically at the end of a project, unit, course, semester, program, or school year. Summative Assessment may include comparison of pre and post test results.

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