Supplement: Possible Key Performance Indicators for Departments


Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

Measurable indicators of performance for a specific objective. KPIs are often numerical and tracked over time. Also sometimes referred to as performance indicators or measurable outcomes.

Identifying and assessing KPIs can help drive departmental improvement and identify successes by tracking performance over time. Examples of KPIs that provide insight into how well your department is performing include courses offered, student credit hours taught, and students enrolled. Institutions sometimes require that KPIs be measured against predetermined benchmarks, e.g., “At least 80% of students will…”.

KPIs may also be used to measure overall student performance when assessing student learning at the program level. This requires developing KPIs that define what it means to attain each program-level student learning outcome. For example, for the program-level student learning outcome, “demonstrate competency in effective communication skills to a range of audiences,” two performance indicators could be, “prepare and deliver an effective oral presentation” and “construct a well-written paper.” Student achievement for each performance indicator is assessed using a developmentally appropriate rubric. The aggregated expected achievement level for first-year students would be lower than the expected level for seniors. For examples of KPIs for program-level student learning outcomes, see the supplement on Sample Documents for Program-Level Assessment of Student Learning.

is a measurement that provides insight into how well your department is performing in a particular area. KPIs are typically numerical, such as courses offered, student credit hours taught, or students enrolled. KPIs associated with student learning are sometimes analyzed using

Data or Learning Analytics

Data analytics is the measurement and analysis of data, often using large data sets. Learning analytics is a specific case of data analytics focused on student learning. Learning analytics can uncover patterns of course taking, student demographics, or other variables that can be used to improve learning.

. Below is a list of possible KPIs for education. These would typically be tracked and/or analyzed over time. See the section on How to Select and Use Various Assessment Methods in Your Program for guidance on how to track departmental metrics.

Disaggregate data by demographics, major, or other critical subgroupings to understand the experiences of different groups. For guidance on how to respectfully design and analyze demographic questions and protect anonymity, see the Guidelines for Demographic Questions in the supplement on How to Design Surveys, Interviews, and Focus Groups.

Student demographic data

  1. Gender, race, and ethnicity

  2. First-generation status

  3. Pell Grant eligibility and/or other measures of financial need

  4. Geographic origin (e.g., region of the US, in-state/out-of-state, foreign country)

  5. Educational background (e.g., whether a student transferred from a community college or elsewhere)

  6. Commuter status

Student enrollment data

  1. Number of students recruited

  2. Acceptance rate of students to institution and/or to physics major or minor

  3. Enrollment rate in major for students who were accepted or intended to enroll

  4. Retention rate (from Year X to Year Y)

  5. Graduation rate (within X years)

  6. Number of new first-year students

  7. Number of new transfers

  8. Number of majors

  9. Average time to degree

  10. Transfer rates (out of major, out of institution)

Student performance data

  1. Awards granted to students

  2. Number of students engaged in research

  3. Program-Level Student Learning Outcomes

    Statements describing what your students should be able to do as a result of completing your degree program. Outcomes emphasize the integration and application of knowledge rather than coverage of material, and are observable, measurable, and demonstrable. They use specific, active verbs (e.g., “identify,” “develop,” “communicate,” “demonstrate”) rather than “understand.” Program-level student learning outcomes are often abbreviated as program-level SLOs or as PLOs, and are also known as program-level learning goals. The term “outcomes” is becoming preferred over “goals” or “objectives” because it makes it clearer that these are defined expectations upon completion of the program, rather than aspirational goals that may or may not be achieved. Examples include:

    • Identify, formulate, and solve broadly defined technical or scientific problems by applying knowledge of mathematics and science and/or technical topics to areas relevant to the discipline
    • Develop and conduct experiments or test hypotheses, analyze and interpret data, and use scientific judgment to draw conclusions
    • Communicate scientific ideas and results in written and oral form according to professional standards and norms
    • Demonstrate and exemplify an understanding of ethical conduct in scientific and professional settings

    Program-level student learning outcomes generally focus on overall program outcomes, in contrast to course-level student learning outcomes, which are specific to the knowledge and skills addressed in individual courses. Accreditation requirements typically require program-level student learning outcomes to be defined separately for each degree program (e.g., BA, BS, or minor), even though there will often be considerable overlap among these sets of outcomes. For more details, see the section on How to Assess Student Learning at the Program Level. For examples, see the supplement on Sample Documents for Program-Level Assessment of Student Learning or the PhysPort expert recommendation How do I develop student learning outcomes for physics courses?


  4. Percent passing

    Teaching Licensure or Certification

    States grant licensure and/or certification to teach in public schools, through accredited teacher training programs. Some private schools also prefer to hire certified teachers. A state-granted teaching certificate is granted to an individual who has met all requirements for licensure. In many states, certification and licensure are used synonymously. Some states may also refer to this as a qualification or credential, while other states will use those words for other specific definitions. Certification is sometimes used to refer to the specific area of teaching for which qualification has been gained (e.g., secondary education physics, elementary, 5–9 math). Some states refer to the areas of teaching as credentials.


  5. Alumni career paths

  6. Employment status of students

  7. Physics GRE scores

Faculty and staff data

  1. Awards granted to faculty and staff

  2. Research grants submitted and awarded

  3. Publication rate by faculty and staff

  4. Advanced degrees or certification among faculty and staff

  5. Number of professional development trainings for faculty and staff in each designation, e.g., tenured, tenure-track, lecturer, and adjunct

  6. Faculty-to-staff ratio

  7. Faculty/staff turnover rate

  8. Staff hours worked

Courses and curriculum

  1. Student enrollment per course, measured on the last day to drop or add a course

  2. Number of under-enrolled sections or fill rate

  3. Student attendance rate

  4. Faculty-to-student ratio

  5. Percentage of classes using educational technology

  6. Passing or

    DFW Rate

    The percentage of students enrolled in a course who received a grade of D, F, or W (withdrew from the course). This is often used as an inverse measure of how well the course supports student success.

    per course

  7. Course completion rates per course

  8. Course repeat rates per course

  9. Student credit hours offered

  10. Credit hours taught by full-time

    Instructional Staff

    Faculty, instructors, adjuncts, teaching staff, and others who serve as instructors of record for courses. This term does not include instructional support staff who support the teaching of courses.

Departmental culture and climate

  1. Student, faculty, and staff sense of belonging, as measured by surveys of departmental culture and climate

  2. Student engagement in departmental organizations (e.g.,


    Society of Physics Students. Website

    ) and/or other extracurricular or co-curricular engagement

  3. Faculty engagement in programs to support equity, diversity, and inclusion

Financial data

  1. Department expenses

  2. Department revenue

  3. Research income

  4. Percent of students on financial aid

  5. Dollars from fundraising and donations

  6. Scholarship costs

  7. Tuition cost per student

  8. Departmental administrative cost per student

  9. Departmental staff cost

  10. Department budget

  11. Cost of faculty instruction

Facilities and resources

  1. Age of buildings

  2. Classroom use rate

  3. Building square footage

Other examples of KPIs

  1. B. Mitchneck, “Operationalizing The Servingness Framework: Metrics For Institutional Transformation At Hispanic-Serving Institutions,” University of Arizona (2022). Executive Summary and Full Report.

  2. Northeastern Illinois University, KPI Progress Report

  3. Missouri State University, Key Performance Indicators

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 1738311, 1747563, and 1821372. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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