OEOA Terms and Definitions

These terms have multiple meanings, and many of them are used interchangeably in higher education. This document clarifies how these terms are used for the purposes of assessment and evaluation at MSM. Note that these definitions are not used in all settings and/or literature.

goal—a broad, clear, and general statement that is derived from a unit’s strategic priorities and that declares what the unit intends to accomplish relative to student learning, unit impact, or operational effectiveness/efficiency.

outcome—a concise statement that is aligned to unit goals and that describes in S.M.A.R.T-like terms the desired results relative to student learning or operational effectiveness/efficiency.

     outcome types—MSM’s assessment planning process is based on three (3) types of outcomes:

student learning outcome (SLO)— a statement that clearly outlines the knowledge, skills, or attitudes (or values) that students will demonstrate at the end of a learning cycle or experience.

SLO Example: Completers will demonstrate an appreciation of diversity in their peers and patients.

SLO Example: Students will demonstrate the ability to critically analyze medical research literature.

program educational outcome (PEO)— a statement, either learning or non-learning in nature, that articulate intended results related to the success or effectiveness of the educational program.

PEO Example: Eighty percent (80%) of students will rate Professor X effective or highly effective in the use of technology in instruction.

PEO Example: Program graduates will maintain a 75 average or better in basic science courses.

PEO Example: Fifty percent (50%) of program courses will include active learning activities.

operational effectiveness outcome (OEO) —a statement that articulates intended results related to effective and efficient operation of the program or unit. 

OEO Example:  Eighty-five percent (85%) of students will be satisfied with the application process.  

OEO Example:  One hundred percent (100%) of new student applications will be processed within 10 business days of the submission date.

objective also known as performance objective—a S.M.A.R.T statement of quantifiable or qualifiable results expressed in terms of the assessment methods, tools, or metrics associated with intended outcomes.

educational objective—a statement that articulates in very clear, measurable terms the knowledge, skills, or attitudes (values) that students are expected to demonstrate after an instructional cycle.

course objective—a statement that articulates in very clear, measurable terms the intended educational objective associated with a specific course.

student success indicator- an observable student outcome that is aligned to the overarching goals or objectives of a program or unit and is indicative of success for program students, often based on measures after program completion. 

Example: 100% of students will be placed in jobs or continuing education 90 days after graduation.

Example: 100% of students will graduate within 3 years of entering the program.

S.M.A.R.T.—a mnemonic acronym that outlines the criteria for the formulation of objectives.  Well-structured objective statements should be:


curriculum map—a matrix that depicts the alignment between a program’s student learning outcomes, courses, and key assessments and is used to identify curriculum gaps, redundancies, and misalignments.

key learning experiencea high-quality, high-impact task or assignment that is aligned to program student learning outcomes.

key assessment—a high-quality, high-impact assessment tool that is aligned to program student learning outcomes and that is used to make data-informed decisions about student progress, course effectiveness, or program quality.

key performance indicator (KPI)—a metric that indicates the level of attainment in relation to strategic goals and priorities.

Example:  Increased number of qualified applicants for the GEBS PhD program.

Example:  Percent increase in the number of pipeline students enrolling in MSM’s UME program

measure—an observation that can be expressed in quantifiable terms (which means that it can be counted, summed, and averaged) or that can be sufficiently described in narrative terms.

Example: The percent correct that students achieve on an exam involving multiple choice questions.

Example: The score achieved by students on a rubric used to grade a written response.

metric—a calculation based on two or more quantitative measures and that are used to determine progress towards a goal or objective.

Example: The average percent correct that a student achieves on items categorized as “Histology” across all courses in the degree program.

Example: The average score on performing a physical exam as rated by a common rubric or checklist across all clerkships.

instructional strategy—strategy or activity used by instructors in and outside of class to reinforce learning objectives and to prepare students for assessments or evaluations.

assessment process—ongoing process of collecting and making use of data to improve the performance of students, faculty, staff, unit, or program.

Example: The process of examining students’ performance on exams to improve instruction and support for students. 

Example: The process of reviewing metrics of student learning and program educational outcomes to plan for program improvements. 

assessment (tool)—a task/instrument that reveals whether students have achieved the identified learning objective (learning assessment tool); also, any tool used to inform the continuous quality improvement efforts of a unit or program (program assessment tool)

Example: A rubric used to determine a student’s proficiency in formulating and executing a lab experiment.

Example:  An exit survey administered to students which is used for planning of program improvements. 

evaluation process—the process of using data to determine if an objective, criterion, benchmark, or standard of performance has been met been at a specific point in time.

Example: The process of comparing a program to the SACSCOC accreditation standards for the 5th year interim report.

Example: The process of comparing the results of the program to predetermined program effectiveness goals and objectives at the end of the year.

evaluation (tool)—a summative task/instrument that is used to make value statements about the performance of students, a program, or unit against a set of standards.

Example: A survey administered to all students used to judge the program’s accomplishment of accreditation standards.

Example:  A survey administered to students to determine their satisfaction with the instruction and learning experiences of a course.

Characteristics of student learning assessments

formative assessment—an assessment measure that is administered during the instructional cycle and that is used to improve ongoing teaching and other learning activities.

summative assessment—a assessment measure that is designed to gauge the level of success and proficiency attained at the end of an instructional cycle.

Characteristics of student assessment measures

direct measure—a measure that is based on the assessment of actual work or performance and is considered to be the best measure of student learning.

indirect measure— a less definitive measure that involves a secondary or subjective observation of learning or performance and is used best as a complement to direct measures.

quantitative measure— an assessment measure that can be expressed in numerical or statistical terms.

qualitative measure—an assessment measure or observation that is expressed in non-numerical, narrative terms.

valid measure—an assessment measure that is proven to truthfully measure the intended outcome or performance. 

reliable measure—an assessment measure that consistently yields similar results in repeated uses within the same context.