Mason Core Assessment

Assessment is the systematic process of collecting, evaluating, and using information about student performance to improve learning. Mason Core assessment uses direct and indirect measures to understand how well students are meeting learning expectations for a course or experience.

Student learning outcomes are broad goals that reflect the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits of mind that students take with them from a learning experience. Learning outcomes for the Mason Core categories are established by faculty, led by the University Mason Core Committee. Faculty members who teach Mason Core courses are expected to incorporate the learning outcomes in their courses, in addition to course- or discipline-specific learning outcomes. These learning outcomes then serve as the basis for learning outcomes assessment for each of the categories.

Assessment Method

The assessment of learning outcomes is conducted at the course level using course portfolios. The portfolios are reviewed by peers to determine the effectiveness of the Mason Core as an educational program. As with other program-level assessment activities, Mason Core assessment focuses on the overall effectiveness of the Mason Core program, and is not an evaluation of individual students or faculty members.

Mason Core faculty prepare course assessment portfolios to serve three purposes:

  1. Mason Core program assessment. Taken together across courses and categories, the portfolios provide a clear picture of the overall effectiveness of the Mason Core program at Mason.
  2. Learning outcomes assessment. The portfolios provide direct evidence of student achievement in Mason Core learning outcomes through samples of student work.
  3. Course review. The portfolios provide the most updated information about what is being taught in the course, what kind of learning experiences are offered to students, and what assessment strategies faculty use.

Mason Core assessment focuses on two questions: To what extent do faculty address the learning outcomes in their courses; and how well do students achieve these outcomes?

Assessment Results

Results of assessment activities are reported to the Mason community, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), and Mason’s regional accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Colleges (SACSCOC).

The most recent published assessment results for Mason Core are available for download:

Arts 2009

Critical Thinking 2010

Critical Thinking Trends 2010-2014

Global-Understanding 2013

IT 2012


Mason Core at Mason Korea 2014

Mason Core at Mason Korea 2015

Natural Sciences 2014 

Oral Communication 2014

Quantitative Reasoning 2013

Social and Behavioral Sciences 2010

Synthesis 2011

Western Civilization 2010


Use of Assessment Results to Improve the Course and/or Curriculum

Assessment has the potential to improve learning by systematically linking assignments, course structure and grading practices to intended learning goals. It can help instructors become better teachers by offering specific feedback on what is working or not working in their classrooms, and provides systematic feedback to gauge progress. Information is used to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the educational program, and plan for curricular improvement. Faculty may discover ways to modify existing course content, tests, or assignments to better align the outcomes of these activities with learning outcomes.


For more information about Mason Core assessment, contact Stephanie Foster,