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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.


Exhibition at Hawthorn Contemporary curated by MIAD alum

Monica Miller ’13 (Integrated Studio Arts) has their hands full, from opening and managing the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design’s (MIAD) new offsite Gallery at The Ave to keeping up with their own artistic and curatorial practice. Now, Miller will curate Grasping Tenderness: Explorations of Queer Joy & Freedom, In Spite of Everything at Hawthorn Contemporary in Milwaukee’s historic Walker’s Point neighborhood.

TMJ4 features two MIAD graduates during AAPI month

Stephanie Brown of TMJ4 News featured recent graduates Mengdian Xing ’23 (Product Design) and her sister Lynn Xing ’23 (Interior Architecture and Design) during a month-long celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage.

Magic: The Gathering tournament in Italy features Illustration faculty

Ever since he was a student at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD), Associate Professor of Illustration John Matson has incorporated fantasy illustration into his work. This lifelong fascination has led to a fruitful career as a fantasy illustrator and educator, most recently manifesting in an invitation to attend a Magic: The Gathering tournament in Italy as a guest illustrator.

Successful Creative Fusion gala closes Our Creative Future campaign

Raising more than $10 million is no small feat. The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) announced it had exceeded its comprehensive campaign goal of $10 million after its annual fundraising gala Creative Fusion: Fashion Forward, where donors generously raised more than $485,000 in scholarship support on May 6, 2023.

2023 Penfield Poster Competition bolsters professional experience

This year’s Penfield Poster winners have been announced! In collaboration with advertising agency Cramer-Krasselt, 80 juniors at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) designed posters for the Annual Croquet Ball fundraiser at the Penfield Children’s Center.