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Assessment of Student Learning


How do we know our students are learning? Through assessment. Assessment is an ongoing process for determining student achievement of the core skills essential to their success after graduation. Assessment requires the establishment of clear and measurable learning outcomes and collecting evidence that identifies how well students are achieving these outcomes.


MIAD has three levels of learning outcomes:

  • Eight College-Wide Learning Outcomes are measured across all four years of study. These outcomes are measured in the majors, as well as in Foundations and Liberal Studies courses.
  • Major-Specific Learning Outcomes are assessed in each of the college’s five majors.
  • Individual Course Learning Outcomes identify the specific skills, knowledge, and abilities students must master in order to receive credit for the course.

MIAD’s formal assessment activities focus on measuring College-Wide and Major-Specific Learning Outcomes. Evidence of student achievement toward these outcomes is gathered, compiled and analyzed. Faculty then meet to review, discuss, and interpret the evidence. Based on their analyses, faculty identify ways to make improvements to teaching and learning.


For two reasons:

  • We want to ensure that our students are learning and that we can measure that learning.
  • We are committed to continuous improvement.

Several years ago, in a book entitled Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on Campus, researchers found that many students’ skills in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing actually decline while they are in college. That’s not very good news for the students enrolled in the colleges that the researchers studied. It suggests why many people distrust higher education. What’s the point of attending college if students’ skills decline?

At MIAD we conduct assessment to ensure our students’ skills improve throughout their college careers. Our assessment research at MIAD reveals:

  • Over the past 6 years, first-year students’ critical and creative thinking skills are improving.
  • Over the past 6 years, first-year students’ research, communication, and reasoning skills are improving.
  • Second-year students demonstrate significant growth in critical and creative thinking skills over first-year students.
  • In all majors, seniors consistently demonstrate significantly high rates of growth in their studio skills over first-year students. While first-year students show evidence of approaching competency, seniors show clear evidence of mastery.

In other words, the college has an ongoing and meaningful program for measuring our students’ learning. We have evidence that students’ skills and knowledge are growing throughout their four years. In support of their professional readiness, faculty make sure that all of our students:

  • Develop learning portfolios to show evidence of their growth across four years
  • Work with professional artists and designers throughout their four years
  • Develop writing, communication and critical thinking skills through four required writing courses and a writing-based liberal studies education
  • Develop senior exhibits and portfolios which are critiqued by professionals

At the same time, faculty are constantly reviewing student growth and seeking new ways to improve the learning experience that MIAD offers.


Battle of the Bands: Product Design class showdown

French Renaissance alt rock met space cowboy country from the future in one Product Design class at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD). Students in Storytelling: Compelling Narrative of the Design Process were tasked with creating a band, complete with newly designed instruments, stage plots and lighting, costumes and even a feature on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

Ordinary people doing extraordinary work: Growing Resistance

In the 50th anniversary year at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD), the college presents “Growing Resistance: Untold Stories of Milwaukee’s Community Guardians,” an exhibition in the Brooks Stevens Gallery running January 8 – March 2, 2024. Related programs include zine making, a book club, student-guided tours and a story circle with community partners.

Metalwork and molds: MIAD alum on Kohler Residency

Eye-opening and awe-inspiring: this is how Nirmal Raja ’08 (Painting) describes learning to work with liquid metal. The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) alum recently completed the John Michael Kohler Arts Center Arts/Industry Residency in Kohler, Wisconsin.

MIAD Values Recognition Award: Dale Shidler

Dale Shidler, Professor of Communication Design, received the January 2024 MIAD Values Recognition Award at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD). Dale’s nominations highlighted his embodiment of MIAD’s Core Values, especially Integrity, Kindness and Community.

MIAD students, alumni, faculty create work for ThriveOn King

Four Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) community members will contribute to the first floor of the new ThriveOn King community hub on North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. They make up part of the 20 Milwaukee artists who will convey the history and heritage of Bronzeville in this collaborative space.