Use Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) to reflect on your teaching and improve student learning in future courses

April 19, 2017 | Claudia Stanny

The final weeks of the term are one of the best times to reflect on student learning and consider changes you might want to implement the next time you offer the course. Identify activities and assignments that worked well and make notes to yourself about modifications to assignments, rubrics, and other aspects of the course that might create improvements. Use the course evaluation activity to administer a questionnaire of your own design to elicit comments and suggestions from students. Formal course evaluations currently focus on “student satisfaction.” Rather than asking students if they liked aspects of the course, create your own Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) questions to evaluate the effectiveness of a specific assignment, class activity, project, or teaching strategy.

People respond to survey questions most accurately when we ask concrete questions about a specific activity or period of time. Thus, SALG questions will generate the most useful feedback when they ask students to rate a specific assignment, project, class activity, or teaching strategy you used in class. Questions about overall learning during the course will produce less specific answers.

Examples of effective SALG questions

Global SALG

  • How much did (insert the target activity) help you in your learning?

Target activities may include a class activity, lab assignments, particular learning methods, guest lectures, class readings, and other resources.

Content SALG

  • As a result of your work in this class (or this specific activity), what gains did you make in your understanding of each of the following?

Provide a list of specific learning outcomes or concepts that you consider important for the class.

Skills SALG

  • As a result of your work in this class (or this specific activity), what gains did you make in the following skills?

Target skill may include making quantitative estimates, finding trends in data, designing a research study, writing technical material, creating a web page, piece of art, etc.

Attitude Change SALG

  • As a result of your work in this class (or this specific activity), what gains did you make in the following areas?

For example: enthusiasm for the course or subject area

Although SALG responses are self-report (indirect) measures of learning, student responses to SALG questions can provide diagnostic evidence about teaching effectiveness. SALG responses have been used for scholarly projects on teaching and learning. Some instructors include SALG responses about a new assignment to document their teaching effectiveness for annual evaluations, tenure and promotion, and teaching awards.

A discussion of the development of SALG measures and information about the validity and reliability of this approach to measuring student learning can be found in:

Seymour, E., Wiese, D., Hunter, A. & Daffinrud, S.M. (2000, March). Creating a Better Mousetrap: On-line Student Assessment of their Learning Gains. Paper presentation at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, San Francisco, CA.

Information about Student Assessment of Learning Gains and a free download of the Seymor et al. paper can be found at the SALG web site:

tmd 4/19/2017