Student Assessment of their Learning Gains

The SENCER Student Assessment of their Learning Gains (SALG) allows students to rate how well specific activities in SENCER courses help their learning. The assessment tool also asks students to report on their science skills and interests, as well as the civic activities in which they engage.

The primary purpose of the SALG is to provide useful, formative feedback to faculty interested in improving their teaching. Students rate how well class activities such as lectures, discussions, or labs help their learning. The SALG also provides a snapshot of student skills and attitudes at the beginning and end of courses, allowing instructors to gauge the effectiveness of their instruction in specific areas. The SENCER-SALG also informs the national assessment of the SENCER program.

The SALG is unlike the traditional Faculty Course Questionnaire in that it does not ask students to rate the competencies of their instructors. It is also not meant to be used as a test or quiz. In the spring of 2008, a new, updated SALG platform was launched--the result of efforts by a team supported by the National Science Foundation. Many improvements have been made to the instrument and the website to ease use and to take advantage of the latest research on teaching and learning.

The SALG retains its basic format of 10 question stems: six related to course design and practices, and four related to course learning objectives. To ensure the conceptual identity of the SALG, these 10 question stems can no longer be changed or deleted, nor can their answer scales be altered. Within these limits, however, you may add to, delete, or change any of the sub-questions under these stems to adapt your SALG to the specific design and goals of your course. These sub-questions are now grouped more coherently, and their content has been updated to apply to a broader variety of disciplines and course types.

As before, you can also choose to begin from an instrument you have used previously or from an instrument developed by a colleague. The new site allows you to merge instruments easily, so that you can take advantage of an instrument that you have developed for a particular course, and still easily incorporate a whole set of questions present in another instrument--your own or someone else’s. Finally, the new site includes more powerful analytical tools to help you better understand the feedback gathered by your SALG, including a tool that allows you to code students' answers to open-ended questions so that you can analyze them statistically.

Instructions for Creating a SENCER-SALG Instrument

Go to the SALG page to learn more, read validity studies, and create an instrument for your course.

Please contact Stephen Carroll at scarroll[at] if you are having trouble setting up or using a SENCER SALG instrument.

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) is a field dedicated to engaging in teaching as a scholarly pursuit. Many SENCER faculty find it useful to use the SoTL method when redesigning their courses to ensure that their changes are advancing student learning. SoTL also offers an avenue for publication on lessons learned, and fosters the sharing of strategies and techniques proven to be effective.

In May 2016, NCSCE hosted a webinar on using the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning to tell the story of curriculum development. The webinar provided an overview of the key aspects of SoTL, situating it within a spectrum of scholarly work on teaching and learning. Two in-depth case studies, one involving service learning and the other involving sustainability, illustrated how SoTL can contribute to the process of developing, assessing, and disseminating curriculum. One particular SoTL component highlighted was the role literature searches play in both shaping and refining questions as well as providing the background context required for publication. To learn more, please view the recording of the webinar.

Evidence Matters SoTL Webinar

Dr. Matthew A. Fisher of Saint Vincent University has also presented extensively on using the SoTL method. You can watch a recording of his "Inquiring Into Our Students' Learning - The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning" presentation, which provides helpful background on SoTL.

Setting Learning Goals in SENCER Courses

Good assessment starts with effective goal setting, yet the challenge of developing measurable learning goals eludes many course developers. The SENCER Summer Institutes emphasize effective goal setting as a major program challenge. NCSCE Senior Fellow Barbara Tewksbury, Upson Chair of Discourse at Hamilton College, serves as principal investigator on a major NSF project, "On the Cutting Edge." Her plenary presentations at SENCER Summer Institutes introduce members of the SENCER community to the art of setting learning goals.

The SENCER Rubric 2.0

What makes a course or curricular project a “SENCER course” or a “SENCER project”? To what extent does an examination of a course or project demonstrate the presence or absence of components associated with the SENCER Ideals? These are the two basic questions that the rubric is designed to help answer.

Various elements of course design, faculty practice, and institutional policy making--some common to good designs and practices and others more specific to the SENCER approach--are presented in the following pages, each with a brief description. For each, those completing the rubric are invited to consider the following four options:

  1. Not Observed - the element was not observed in the material reviewed;
  2. Basic - the review showed evidence that the element was present at a level described in the chart as “basic”;
  3. Advanced - the review showed evidence of the presence of the element at a level described as “advanced”; and
  4. Transformative - the review showed evidence that was so advanced so as to be transformative, according to the application of the rubric.

Using the rubric is like doing an audit; that is, you will be looking at material evidence to make the assessments. The evidence may consist of a review of relevant course materials, such as syllabi, texts, websites, assignments, completed projects and tests, assessment findings, video/audiotapes, reports, and journals. The evidence may also come from transcripts of interviews with students and professors, etc. When using the rubric, you will want to note your “findings” as well as the source of the evidence on the rubric form itself in the space below each “table.”

SENCER Rubric 2.0

Download (PDF, 106KB)

If you have questions regarding any of these tools, please contact:

Stephen Carroll

On the Cutting Edge
Barbara Tewksbury

SENCER Rubric 2.0
Wm. David Burns