Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Laura J. Moriarty


This dissertation focuses on student learning outcomes assessment in criminal justice programs in American colleges and universities. Particularly, this research sought to establish a baseline understanding about how criminal justice programs are measuring student achievement toward learning outcomes. The baseline does not include what students should be learning or how that learning should be assessed; it includes only what is actually happening in criminal justice programs in terms of how student learning is being assessed. The baseline data were then compared to the results from two studies that focused on student learning assessment in political science departments and public relations programs in institutions of higher education.The population for this research included 834 two-and four-year accredited institutions of higher education that offer a degree in criminal justice/criminology. A total of 369 criminal justice programs were included in the randomly-generated sample, and 44 percent of these programs completed the online questionnaire.The online survey instrument used for this research consists of 30 questions that are aligned with the "ideal type" of learning assessment model where a set of learning objectives are developed, assessment instruments are created and implemented, data are regularly collected and analyzed, and changes are made to improve the curriculum/instruction.The major findings of this research indicate that a large majority of criminal justice programs are assessing student learning to some degree, but many are using instruments that are documented as ineffective measures of assessment (e.g., grades, surveys, and Major Field Test). Also, a substantial number of criminal justice programs are located in institutions that place a high priority on learning assessment, but a small percentage of the programs reported that adequate resources are available for assessment purposes. Regardless of these factors, many criminal justice programs seem to be following the ideal type of learning assessment model where the process is completed by making changes to the curriculum and instruction to improve student learning and development. When compared to political science and public relations, it appears that criminal justice as an entire discipline is up to par in terms of its overall involvement in student learning assessment.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008