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CTE - Assessment Workbook

This guide provides information, resources, and templates for assessing student learning outcomes at Central Penn College.


Spendolini (1992) defines benchmarking as “continuous systematic process for evaluating products, services, and work processes of organizations that are recognized as representing best practices for the purposes of organizational improvement.” Benchmarks should be determined and voted on by faculty members during their department and assessment meetings. These benchmarks, including the type of benchmark used, should reflect the learning standards for the program.   


The function of benchmarking as a department:

  • Creates a definitive reference point for assessment results
  • Provides evidence for justifying programs and services in a department
  • Improves the quality of the education experience
  • Demonstrates what specific elements need further improvement
  • Allows departments to demonstrate areas of strengths


The function of benchmarking as an institution:

  • Provides support for budgetary and administrative decisions
  • Acts as evidence in policy decisions and changes
  • Provides reference and evidence for strategic development plans
  • Provides comparative data to the administration


Considerations to make when benchmarking:

  • What do you want to learn from the assessment? How will the benchmark help you to gather that data?
  • How are you going to share the information? Does this impact the benchmark you will use?
  • What resources are in your area? Is there a national data set or national databases that you can use for your benchmark? Are their standardized or normed rubrics that can be used?

Benchmarking Process


The following short presentation provides an overview of the benchmarking process:




Types of Benchmarks


Local Standards Benchmark: Standards set internally, usually by those faculty teaching the course.  These standards should be based on knowledge of the course, program, School, and College goals. A local standards benchmark will typically read:

X% of students will achieve a score of ≥ Y on the rubric.

X% of students will achieve a score of ≥ Y on the exam.


Internal Peer Benchmarks: These are standards that compare scores of peers across programs, Schools, or College.


External Peer Benchmarks: These are standards that compare scores of peers to peers in other institutions of higher education.


External Standards: These are standards established by bodies outside of the program, School, or College.  Usually, these are standardized tests created by professional certification and licensure programs.


Best Practice Benchmarks: These standards compare the results of one institution against the results of best peer institutions. 


Value-Added Benchmarks: Compares current student performance against her/his performance when s/he began her/his studies.  


Historical Trends Benchmarks: Compares current students to peers in prior classes.  


Benchmarking Example

The following example is from an assessment report from a first-year writing course that focused on critical thinking:




Spendolini, M. J. (1992). The benchmarking book. New York: Amacom.