PEARL: Program Excellence through Assessment, Research and Learning


An overview of the PEARL cycle is shown in Figure 1.

pearl cycle

Figure 1
: The PEARL cycle:


  • In the first step, "Identify student learning outcomes", PEARL Program Leaders work together with the faculty or staff members in their program, and department chairs and accreditators as needed, to develop and identify the learning outcomes for their program and assessment measures that will be used to provide evidence on the achievement of those outcomes. Programs are asked to select about 3 student learning or development outcomes for each PEARL cycle. The Program Leader enters this information, called the "PEARL Plan," into the PEARL software.
  • Next, the PEARL Peer Reviewers examine the PEARL Plan and provide coaching and feedback on ways the plan could be improved using the PEARL Rubric. The PEARL Rubric was developed during the PEARL pilot here at UNL in 2005. The PEARL Rubric also undergoes periodic revision and updating.
  • During the fall and spring semesters the program implements the plan and collects the assessment data. Programs do not need to wait for "approval" before implementing their plans, as the Peer Reviewers provide coaching and suggestions for improvement, not approval.
  • At the end of the spring semester, programs finish their data collection and begin analyzing, interpreting, and sharing those data to identify potential program improvements.
  • Programs then develop their "PEARL Results" that describe their interpretations of the assessment evidence, how that evidence was shared, and changes and improvements made to the program. The Program Leaders enter this information into the PEARL software.
  • The Peer Reviewers review the PEARL Results and provide coaching and feedback. The PEARL cycle starts over again with Program Leaders and Program faculty or staff members identifying learning outcomes and assessment measures (these can be the same as used in previous cycles if desired) and entering this information into the PEARL software.
  • The PEARL timeline is flexible and may be organized differently (e.g., a two-year cycle) in participating units.

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