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Assessment Plan for General Education Program, Effective Fall 2019

  • Guiding Statement on the Purpose of Assessment
    Clemson University has a commitment to academic and operational excellence. Accordingly, the process of assessment is used in a cyclical process in the pursuit of continuous improvement. Assessment is an indicator of how goals are being met and how the University is delivering on its mission.  
    Student learning outcomes assessment data are used solely to assist with instructional and program improvement in support of student learning, and in compliance with SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation.
  • Student Learning Outcomes for General Education Curriculum
    Student learning outcomes are statements that clearly state the knowledge, skills, or habits of mind that students are expected to acquire. The student learning outcomes that are associated with the Clemson University General Education curriculum are in the Undergraduate Catalog. Each student learning outcome has an accompanying rubric for assessment. The student learning outcomes and rubrics are linked on this site.
  • Use of a Signature Assignment
    Every course that is part of the General Education curriculum should have a “signature assignment.” This is an assignment (or multiple assignments) created by the instructor and/or course coordinator to address the General Education student learning outcome and accompanying assessment rubric criteria.
    By necessity, courses in the General Education curriculum involve more depth and breadth than what is depicted in the student learning outcome statements and assessment rubrics. The signature assignment is simply a tool for eliciting student learning around a common, shared outcome and allowing for authentic assessment of student learning in each course.
    The Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation and the Division of Undergraduate Studies started in spring 2019 to work with faculty on adapting or designing signature assignments. We have created an asynchronous Canvas course that covers "Learning-Focused Assignment Design." In part 1, faculty can begin the course at any point (time estimate: less than 2 hours). In part 2, faculty will engage in a facilitated peer review of an assignment with OTEI staff. The two-part series can be used as Evidence of Teaching Effectiveness according to the Clemson Faculty Manual definitions, and we can directly add a credential documenting participation to the faculty member's Digital Measures portfolio.
  • Rotation Schedule for Assessment

    Not every student learning outcome needs to be assessed every year. We assess General Education student learning outcomes on a biennial basis; the figure below shows the rationale. During the year that a student learning outcome is assessed, faculty of those courses will submit student work samples of the signature assignment. Assessment of student attainment of the student learning outcomes will be performed by a faculty jury at the end of the spring semester. The results will be discussed at the annual General Education program retreat, and the faculty will use the results of the assessment findings to determine improvements to be made, if any.
    Clemson University is responsible for demonstrating compliance with SACSCOC General Education core requirements every ten years. This planned rotation schedule will allow us the time for collection, reflection, and correction as needed with regards to our program.

    Planned rotation schedule:

    • Odd years (19-20, 21-22, 23-24, etc.) - Communication (oral and written), Mathematics, Natural Sciences
    • Even years (20-21, 22-23, 24-25, etc.) - Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences, Global Challenges (starting in fall 2022)

      Cycle of assessment. In the first year, a course is delivered and student work is collected. That summer, assessment of the student work is performed in May or June. The results of the assessment are shared with faculty at the annual general education retreat, and faculty determine what the data mean and any changes that need to be made. The cycle repeates every two years.
  • Sampling and Responsibilities

    Assessment of the extent to which our students are achieving student learning outcomes occurs through assessment of student work products on the signature assignment. 

    The rotation schedule details which student learning outcomes will be assessed each year, and sampling will be used. Because of items such as differing student enrollment patterns, student academic cohorts, pedagogies, and levels of commonalities among sections, the specific details of the sample will be determined in advance of each academic year by the Division of Undergraduate Studies and shared with the General Education Committee. All attempts will be made to ensure that the samples are representative of the populations of students who take particular courses at particular times.

    Instructors and/or course coordinators will receive information each semester from the Division of Undergraduate Studies if a sample of students from the courses they are teaching/coordinating will be assessed.

    Faculty Responsibilities (including Instructors of Record and/or Course Coordinators)
    If a student sample from a course that an instructor is teaching and/or coordinating is chosen for assessment in any given semester, the instructor will be asked to: a.) identify the signature assignment; b.) upload the assignment instructions and the student work as directed, along with any keys or grading rubrics as applicable.
    Instructors who need help with collection and submission will be provided with different options to consider and some options for help with the task.

    Assessment is not grading. Instructors will not be asked to assess their own students on General Education learning outcomes. Rather, assessment will be done through a juried process performed by a faculty team.

    Juried assessment will be performed every year by Clemson faculty. Because national assessment data show that the act of assessing a broad pool of student work is an excellent faculty development task, we will solicit the involvement of a new subset of faculty on the jury each year, such that approximately one- to two-thirds of the jury members each year are new to the process of General Education assessment.

    General Education Committee and/or Division of Undergraduate Studies Responsibilities
    The role of the General Education Committee and the Division of Undergraduate Studies is to coordinate and support the delivery of a quality General Education curriculum. To that end, these entities will perform the organizational work of the assessment process and work with faculty to connect what is going on at the program level to the courses taught across the university.

    The General Education Committee and the Division of Undergraduate Studies also have the responsibility of ensuring that this assessment plan is carried out with high fidelity. Revisions to the assessment plan will be reviewed in accordance with shared faculty governance. The figure below shows a general timeline of tasks for assessment of the General Education program.
    Infographic of roles of faculty and undergraduate studies division.

  • Data Governance Plan and Data Usage
    As per SACSCOC guidelines, the University must have student learning outcomes for General Education, we must assess the student learning, and we must show evidence of improvement. Meeting these standards is a key purpose of an effective assessment plan. We need to be able to identify areas for improvement, and revision can be directed toward any of the following as needed: the courses included in the curriculum, the signature assignment instructions given to students, mentoring on teaching, the student learning outcomes, the General Education assessment rubrics, or even the assessment plan itself.

    To have impactful and meaningful assessment results, we must be able to determine where we need improvements. However, data resulting from General Education assessment will not be used to evaluate individual instructors teaching in the General Education curriculum. Assessment of learning is not appropriate assessment of teaching. Furthermore, student learning outcomes assessment data will not be used to make comparisons across academic programs.
    Instructors will be able to see the de-identified assessment results of the student work samples they submit from their own courses, along with the distribution of scores. Chairs will receive a summary report describing the results of the student learning assessment and strengths and suggested areas for improvement for the general education courses taught in that department.

    Common campus software – such as Canvas – will often be used by instructors for collecting student work. No student work will be downloaded from Canvas without the instructor’s knowledge or permission.

  • FAQs

    Questions and answers below were created during the 2018-2019 academic year as we piloted a new General Education Program assessment plan. If you have other questions, please send to

    Q: Students only submit paper copies of their assignments in the course I teach. I don’t have student work electronically. What should I do?

    A: Student hard copy work can be scanned or imaged into electronic formats (.pdf is preferred). Electronic files can either be created by students before submission of the signature assignment or by the instructor/TA/grader/etc. after students submit the work for a grade.

    If faculty are interesting in transitioning assignments to digital or electronic formats, consider contacting OTEI for assistance.

    Q: My course is only a 1-hour discussion course. How can I submit student work?

    A: All courses in the General Education curriculum should have a signature assignment that addresses the learning outcome for that General Education student learning outcome area. Work with the Office of Teaching Excellence and Innovation to develop a signature assignment for the course you teach.  Consult the Clemson Teaching web site and the Canvas course on assignment design (link) for materials and support.

    Q: My students submit their work through Turnitin. How can I get the work from Canvas?

    A: To download Turnitin assignments you will need to take the following steps in your Canvas course:
    1.  Click on Assignments in the course menu.
    2.  Locate and click on the Turnitin assignment.  That should take you to Turnitin's Assignment Inbox.
    3.  Select the papers you wish to download by clicking the selection box to the left of the student's names.
    4.  After you make your selections you can click on either Download All or Download Selected. Other download options are available if you click on the down arrow in either button.

    Q: My students submit quizzes and tests through Canvas, but I cannot pull their work back out. Suggestions?

    A: The Clemson Canvas web site includes links to a number of helpful resources.  If you are unable to find answers using these resources, please submit a help ticket to

    Q: I will be submitting final exams for my students. My department likes to use the same final exams from year to year, though. How can I be sure that they will stay secure?

    A: Signature assignments are submitted to secure Canvas course shells set up specifically and only to collect General Education artifacts from signature assignments. Only a few FERPA-trained academic staff members have access to the courses.

    Security concerns about using a final exam can be addressed by using a different signature assignment for assessment. There may be other assignments that would work as well. Consult the Clemson Teaching web site and the Canvas course on assignment design (link) for materials and support.

    Q: If I forgot to upload something to Canvas, it will not let me resubmit without wiping my old submission. What should I do?

    A: Use the “Additional Documents Submission If Needed” link in the Canvas course for the General Education student learning outcome for which you are submitting work. If you still have issues, please request help using the email address. Someone will respond to you within two work days.

    Q: My students are concerned about their names being on their work if some of it is sensitive. How can this work be de-identified?

    A: It is not necessary that the student work be de-identified for assessment purposes. Assessment results are reported only in aggregated form, so no individual artifact is identified. If a signature assignment has sensitive information, consider asking for assistance, and we will provide options for submission.

    Q: I use Google Docs for my students and the assignments are submitted through Canvas. How can we submit?

    A: Select the Upload General Education Artifacts link. Click the “Submit Assignment” button. Select the Google Doc tab:

    Google Drive will display a list of all allowed file types. Click the name of the file [1], then click the Submit Assignment button [2].

    You will have to submit the Google documents one at a time using this method.

    Alternatively, you can navigate to your Google Drive folder and download the folder into a .zip file, then upload that .zip file to the Canvas General Education course for your student learning outcome area.

      1. Right-click on a folder. Right-click on the folder you want to download.
      2. Click Download. It may take a few moments for Google Drive to compress the file into a zip file, then the download will begin.
      3. Double-click the zip file to extract files, or submit the zip file as is.

    Q: My students use group work. How can I submit that?

    A: Group assignments result in an artifact that can be submitted for assessment, so this is no problem! Please also submit the assignment and any assessment rubric that is used to evaluate the assignment.

    Q: I am only using on-line quizzes and exams in a platform that is not Canvas. How do I submit these?

    A: Please consult with the vendor whose platform you are using to learn how to download quiz and/or exam signature assignment artifacts. You can then submit the artifacts you have downloaded. For assistance, please contact us using

    Q: I have a large course that takes three mid-term exams and a final exam. I’m not sure which assignment to submit, although the final exam probably illustrates the breadth of material best.

    A: Submit the assignment that you consider best evaluates student achievement of the General Education student learning outcome area mapped to the course you teach. You may work with the Office of Teaching Excellence and Innovation to develop a signature assignment for the course you teach, if you feel that the current assignments do not adequately address the General Education student learning outcome.

    Q: All of the students' papers are submitted, graded, and then returned to the students in hard copy so I do not have any digital records of student work to submit.

    A: All General Education courses will be asked to submit signature assignments that assess student achievement of learning outcomes for the relevant General Education student learning outcome area, on a rotating schedule. Hard copy assignment submissions can be scanned to digital copies (pdf preferred) for submission the next time you teach this course. Electronic files can either be created by students before submission of the signature assignment or by the instructor/TA/grader/etc. after students submit the work for a grade. If faculty are interesting in transitioning assignments to digital or electronic formats, consider contacting OTEI for assistance.

    Q: I use low-stakes formative assessments (daily in-class writing assignments via Canvas quizzes and class discussion) to assess students' ability to analyze/interpret literature. Because the assignments are informal, they may not suit your needs. What should I do?

    A: All courses in the General Education curriculum have a signature assignment that addresses the learning outcome for that General Education student learning outcome area. Work with the Office of Teaching Excellence and Innovation to develop a signature assignment for the course you teach. 

  • Planned with Faculty Shared Governance
  • Past Assessment Reports

    Starting in 2019 (and detailed above), faculty have an opportunity to analyze and make meaning from General Education assessment results. This is done via the annual General Education Program Retreat. The General Education links below have more information on the annual retreats and events.

    2022 Events Page, General Education Program Retreat - Data Breakout Session

    2021 Events Page, General Education Program Retreat - Data Breakout Session

    2020 Program Retreat Link (impacted by Covid; held as open meeting instead)

    2019 Program Retreat Link

    The General Education student learning outcomes, rubrics, and assessment plans have changed considerably starting in fall 2019. Past assessment reports are available upon request.