Many calls to improve science education in college and university settings have focused on improving instructor pedagogy. Meanwhile, science education at the K-12 level is undergoing significant changes as a result of the emphasis on scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas. This framework of "three-dimensional learning" is based on the literature about how people learn science and how we can help students put their knowledge to use. Recently, similar changes are underway in higher education by incorporating three-dimensional learning into college science courses. As these transformations move forward, it will become important to assess three-dimensional learning both to align assessments with the learning environment, and to assess the extent of the transformations. In this paper we introduce the Three-Dimensional Learning Assessment Protocol (3D-LAP), which is designed to characterize and support the development of assessment tasks in biology, chemistry, and physics that align with transformation efforts. We describe the development process used by our interdisciplinary team, discuss the validity and reliability of the protocol, and provide evidence that the protocol can distinguish between assessments that have the potential to elicit evidence of three-dimensional learning and those that do not.