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Learning Assessment

The maintenance of academic quality resides primarily with graduate field faculty and directors of graduate study, working through the Special Committee—the group of faculty providing primary advisement and academic oversight for each graduate student. Faculty assess student performance through a variety of direct and indirect measures, including:

  • Semesters of registration
  • Student progress reviews
  • Official milestones such as qualifying exams (Q exams), administered early in an academic program, admission to candidacy exams (A exams) which assess breadth and depth in the discipline, and the defense of the thesis or dissertation (B exams)
  • Public presentations of scholarly work

The Graduate School leadership works closely with field faculty in establishing and articulating goals, objectives, and rubrics through which the aims of graduate education can be met. Graduate education learning outcomes are communicated to students on websites, in annual student orientations, and by the Special Committee. Monitoring time-to-degree and supporting faculty mentoring and student teaching are additional ways in which the Graduate School establishes and uphold standards.

Learning Proficiences for all Graduate Students

Graduate education at Cornell is diverse, cross-disciplinary, and dynamic. While intended learning outcomes vary across the many academic programs, a set of overarching goals characterize the graduate educational experience. These aspirational goals (listed below) are intended to encourage students’ growth and development. In some fields of study, these aspiration goals may be assessed, whereas in other fields they may not have quantitative or qualitative assessment.

  • Serve as an ambassador for research and scholarship
  • Effectively engage in one’s broader community through various forms of outreach
  • Explore interconnections
    • Focus on plural contexts and cultures
    • Respect research in other areas
    • Understand and articulate the impact of research on society

Doctoral Proficiencies

A candidate for a doctoral degree is expected to demonstrate mastery of knowledge in the chosen discipline and to synthesize and create new knowledge, making an original and substantial contribution to the discipline in an appropriate timeframe. 

  • Make an original and substantial contribution to the discipline 
    • Think originally and independently to develop concepts and methodologies
    • Identify new research opportunities within one’s field
  • Demonstrate advanced research skills 
    • Synthesize existing knowledge, identifying and accessing appropriate resources and other sources of relevant information and critically analyzing and evaluating one’s own findings and those of others
    • Master application of existing research methodologies, techniques, and technical skills
    • Communicate in a style appropriate to the discipline
  • Demonstrate commitment to advancing the values of scholarship
    • Keep abreast of current advances within one’s field and related areas
    • Show commitment to personal professional development through – engagement in professional societies, publication, and other knowledge transfer modes
    • Show a commitment to creating an environment that supports learning through teaching, collaborative inquiry, mentoring, or demonstration
  • Demonstrate professional skills 
    • Adhere to ethical standards in the discipline
    • Listen, give, and receive feedback effectively

Research Master’s Proficiences

A candidate for a research master’s degree is expected to demonstrate knowledge in the chosen discipline and to synthesize and create new knowledge, making a contribution to the field in an appropriate timeframe.

  • Make a contribution to the scholarship of the field.
  • Learn advanced research skills 
    • Synthesize existing knowledge, identifying and accessing appropriate resources and other sources of relevant information and critically analyzing and evaluating one’s own findings and those of others
    • Apply existing research methodologies, techniques, and technical skills
    • Communicate in a style appropriate to the discipline
  • Demonstrate commitment to advancing the values of scholarship
    • Keep abreast of current advances within one’s field and related areas
    • Show commitment to personal professional development through engagement in professional societies and other knowledge transfer modes
    • Show a commitment to creating an environment that supports learning – through teaching, collaborative inquiry, mentoring, or demonstration
  • Demonstrate professional skills 
    • Adhere to ethical standards in the discipline
    • Listen, give, and receive feedback effectively