Outcomes and Assessments

The Mount Mercy mission and goals lie at the heart of the university's academic programs and other student-oriented educational experiences.

University-Wide Objectives

University-wide objectives were adopted in conjunction with the four main educational goals (commonly highlighted as ‘Reflect, Engage, Serve, Live’) that accompany Mount Mercy’s mission statement. A multi-faceted formative academic assessment protocol provides a framework for ongoing analysis of student learning in relation to these objectives.

Multiple data sources are used to help assure that students are meeting the stated university-wide, major, and core curriculum objectives, with established cycles for data collection, reporting, and feedback. Curriculum mapping ties course student learning objectives to major level student learning objectives and major learning objectives to university-wide student learning objectives. The assessment plan includes authentic assessment-assignments and both direct measures of learning (e.g. instructor evaluation of student work) and indirect indicators such as student, alumni, and faculty surveys.

See the Mount Mercy 2018–2024 Assessment Plan for specific information about the annual feedback at the university-wide and major level. Information is for improving student learning and the assessment protocol.

University-Wide and Core Curriculum Assessment

A wide variety of programs and services contribute to realizing Mount Mercy’s commitment to a strong and student-focused education. Through a rich core curriculum, service learning experiences, student development opportunities, and many other campus programs, students are encouraged to use reflective thinking capabilities, develop strategic communication skills, serve the common good and set the stage for lifelong learning.

Assessment activities include administering nationally recognized instruments such as the National Survey of Student Engagement on a regular basis. Senior and alumni surveys are conducted annually, as well as other studies of individual programs on campus.

Assessment of the Major

Each academic major has a set of agreed-upon general and specific outcomes for its graduates.

These outcomes are assessed through a variety of established techniques such as portfolios, field- or campus-based projects, presentations, senior capstone projects, final papers, tests, and individual assignments.

Faculty members in the appropriate department collaborate to develop an academic assessment strategy that best suits their specialty. Faculty members review and assess selected student learning objectives each year, gathering and interpreting data concerning their graduates and determining appropriate follow-up action.

In addition, majors participate in an assessment of the university-wide objectives and the core curriculum. Mount Mercy’s faculty members strive to assure that students demonstrate strong achievement in their majors prior to graduation. An important component of the academic assessment process involves faculty collaboration to determine the necessary steps needed to address any noted shortcomings and to build upon areas of student success. Articulating the plan for future improvement is essential to a strong assessment cycle.

About Assessments


Mount Mercy’s Academic Assessment Plan incorporates a combination of strategies including the majors, core curriculum and campus-wide efforts. A multi-faceted academic assessment plan provides a framework for ongoing analysis of student learning. The plan includes both direct measures of learning (e.g. instructor evaluation of student work) and indirect indicators such as student, alumni and faculty surveys. Some data are collected within courses required for specific academic majors, while other data are collected in core curriculum classes. Annual reports submitted by the academic majors also contribute to this process, with designated objectives assessed according to established timeframes.

Core Curriculum: The Mercy Portal Experience

Incoming first-year students are required to take an MMU Portal course. The interdisciplinary nature of the course fosters teamwork and leadership. By the time students finish the course, a survey of student perceptions and experiences in the Portal course is distributed.

Core Curriculum: Domains of Liberal Study

Mount Mercy’s core curriculum includes seven domains of liberal studies. Students in all majors are also required to take Mount Mercy Domains of Liberal Studies courses. These courses give all students in all majors a sense of breadth and connection among traditional liberal arts disciplines. These courses are grouped according to the overall concepts covered by courses in that domain: Expressive Arts, Global Awareness, Historical Roots, Holistic Health, The Natural World, Self and Society and Ultimate Questions. Each class in a domain uses a common domain assignment. Faculty from each domain collaborated to develop a common assignment addressing the agreed upon outcomes for that area. Performance criteria were also specified and scoring rubrics created.

Core Curriculum: Mercy Experience Capstone

Mount Mercy seniors are required to take a Mercy Experience Capstone course that is intended as a culminating experience in the liberal studies. Students integrate knowledge they have acquired from each of the core domains and will reflect on their Mercy education in the context of their major discipline. One key component of this one-credit course, in which students enroll concurrently with their major’s senior seminar, is a capstone project focused on a social justice issue. The project is designed to engage students in considering disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and global perspectives, while fostering teamwork and communication.

A second capstone component used for assessment purposes is a Reflection Paper in which students begin to synthesize and reflect on their work at Mount Mercy as they approach graduation. The paper addresses the institution’s mission and goals, with a focus on ways in which studies and experiences in the core curriculum have helped shape their Mercy education.

Learning within Academic Majors: Academic Major Assessment

Annual assessment of each major is firmly established at Mount Mercy. Faculty members review and assess selected student learning objectives each year, gathering and interpreting data concerning their graduates and determining appropriate follow-up action.

Coordinators for each major are charged with managing and reporting on this assessment process. Coordinators are expected to work closely with their department chairs, sharing findings and reports with them and contributing to ongoing improvement activities. Department chairs collaborate with coordinators on behalf of other majors in the department.

In addition, all disciplines are included in an assessment of the university-wide objectives and the core curriculum. Each major has established learning objectives for students graduating in that discipline. One to two objectives are assessed each year, rotating through all learning objectives in a six-year cycle. Assessment reports are read by the Academic Assessment Committee and feedback is given yearly. Workshops focused on assessment are held each term for coordinators to discuss activities and findings.

Student Experiences at Mount Mercy University: Evidence from Longitudinal Studies

The experiences of all students who were new to Mount Mercy are tracked from the time they start at the institution to the end of their first year. Data were collected and analyzed by Dr. Chad Loes, Director of Student Outcomes Research.

Co-curricular Assessment Takes Place Within the Student Services Area

Assessment of the experiences of students who are involved in student engagement activities, athletics, diversity activities, residential life, career services, health services, and campus ministry activities, are collected annually. Objectives of the student service programs are tied to the University’s student learning objectives. Measures used for assessment include pre/post surveys, post-attendance questionnaires, reflection papers and annual surveys.

Assessment reports are read by the Academic Assessment Committee and feedback is given yearly.  

Reports are due in early July. 

Mount Mercy University Student Services Annual Survey of Students

Mount Mercy Longitudinal Study of Student Growth (LSSG)

(Data collected and analyzed by Chad Loes, Director of Student Outcomes Research)

National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) Student Survey Rubrics


Curriculum Mapping Alignment Matrix (PDF) - A Mount Mercy University template/resource.

RAILS Project - In partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, AAC&U, and the ACRL Assessment Immersion Program, the RAILS (Rubric Assessment of Information Literacy Skills) Project provides resources for academic librarians and faculty. Intended outcomes include "a suite of rubrics that can be used by academic librarians and disciplinary faculty to assess information literacy outcomes; a transferable model for analyzing rubric scores; training materials for librarians, faculty, and LIS students who seek to use rubrics for information literacy assessment; indicators of rater expertise in rubric scoring; and a clearinghouse for librarians and faculty to share."

RCampus' iRubric - A free resource that helps create rubrics.

RubiStar - Developed through the Advanced Learning Technologies (ALTEC) project at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning, this free tool helps create rubrics.

Resources from other Institutions

University of Hawai'i Manoa's Rubric Bank - Features rubrics for different learning outcomes designated as essential for the university. A how-to guide on creating rubrics is also posted.


AAC&U “Essential Learning Outcomes” Rubrics - Rubrics developed by national faculty teams led by the Association of American Colleges and Universities for assessing outcomes.

AAC&U assessment website - Helpful publications and examples of practice in a variety of institutions compiled by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment - Reports, occasional papers, and examples of practice from a new organization working to make learning outcomes usable and transparent to professionals and stakeholders in higher education.

NASPA Student Affairs Assessment, Evaluation and Research Knowledge Community - Helpful publications and institutional examples for assessing student learning and development in student affairs programs.


Gardiner, Lion F. (2000). "Monitoring and Improving Educational Quality in the Academic Department." In Leading Academic Change: Essential Roles for Department Chairs, Ann F. Lucas and Associates, 165-194. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. This article provides an overview of assessment and its role in leadership for the academic department.

Gardiner, Lion F., Caitlin Anderson, and Barbara L. Cambridge, eds. 1997. Learning through Assessment: A Resource Guide for Higher Education. Washington, D. C.: American Association for Higher Education Assessment Forum. [116 pp.] This is a comprehensive guide to assessment resources.

Palomba, Catherine A., and Trudy W. Banta. (1999). Assessment Essentials: Planning, Implementing, and Improving Assessment in Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. This is a guide to assessment theory and its practice.

Rhodes, T. (2010). Assessing Outcomes and Improving Achievement: Tips and Tools for Using Rubrics. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities. This book provides an overview of the VALUE project, and rubrics that faculty and academic professional created collaboratively.

Stevens, D. D., & Levi, A. J. (2012). Introduction to Rubrics. Sterling, VA: Stylus. This book provides examples of rubrics, background and information on the use of rubrics in program assessment.

Suskie, L. (2009). Assessing Student Learning: A common sense guide. (2nd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. This book provides examples of different rubrics.