Jump to other news and events
Assessment and Evaluation
- Ground assessment in educational values & priorities
Your educational values and priorities should guide your assessment. In other words, assess students' achievement of learning outcomes that really matter to you even if that requires you to go the proverbial 'extra mile' in your assessments. Questions such as "What do I want my students to be able to know, do, or be in 5 years from now?" or "How likely am I going to use the assessment findings?" can guide you in establishing your educational values and priorities.
- Begin with the end in mind
Clarify the purpose(s) at the beginning of your assessment. Knowing what questions you want to answer and what learning outcomes you want to assess, will provide you with needed guidance for what methods and tools to use for gathering, analyzing, interpreting, and reporting the data to be collected. Failure to establish your purpose(s) at the beginning is likely to lead to ineffective and inefficient assessment.
- Involve relevant stakeholders
Assessment seems to work best when relevant stakeholders are involved in the assessment process. For example, involve faculty in the process of clarifying the learning outcomes for a program, or communicate to your students the findings from your assessments and what changes, if any, you may make in response to the assessment findings.
- Conduct an assessment audit
It is common practice for stores to take inventory before they order new items. Knowing the gap between what they have and what they need allows stores to order the 'right' things. This principle also applies to assessment. Once you have decided on your assessment focus, find out if any of your current or past assessments could help you answer your assessment questions. For example, if you want to assess your students' analysis skills, take a look at your existing course exams and assignments and see if any of them already require your students to demonstrate these skills. This can save you time and energy that you might otherwise spend on 'reinventing the wheel'.
- Triangulate your assessment
Triangulation is an important part of assessment and it means that you look at a situation from different angles. For example, when you plan your assessments you might want to talk to a colleague who could serve a valuable sounding board and give you feedback on your assessment ideas. You could also locate and utilize assessment specialists within your academic unit or on your campus. Outside people can also help you with making sense of your assessment data and translating it into action items. Triangulation can also involve the use of different methods for collecting assessment evidence. You could give students a presentation assignment to assess their oral communication skills and you could also ask them to complete a survey that is aimed at eliciting their perception of their oral communication skills.
- Assess outcomes and processes
While it is important to assess what your students are learning or not learning, it is also important in your assessment to take a look at the processes and experiences that lead to the desired learning outcome. If you want your students to develop critical thinking skills, don't just assess the degree to which they have those critical thinking skills. You need to also get information related to the activities and materials that you use to help students become critical thinkers. For example, gather students' feedback on the reading materials and in-class discussions that you might employ to facilitate their critical thinking skills. This information might shed light on what helps or hinders students' achievement of the learning outcome and might provide you with guidance for what activities and materials to keep and which ones to change should change be needed.
- Conduct ongoing assessment
Good assessment practice reflects the principle that learning is a process that occurs over time. This means that it is important to take multiple pictures of your students' learning instead of just one snapshot. For example, assessments at the beginning of the semester might reveal that students are struggling with identifying underlying assumptions of an argument while assessments later in the semester might reveal improvement or no improvement for students identifying underlying assumptions. No improvement of students' performance over time will probably translate into different interpretation of assessment findings than improvement over time. Ongoing assessment is also reflected in the collection of additional data to shed light on unclear assessment findings and in the collection of data for assessing the impact of changes made in response to assessment findings.
- Translate your assessment findings into actions for improvement
Remember that improvement of student learning is a, if not the, main purpose of assessment. Hence, your assessment findings are of little value if you don't translate them into specific actions aimed at facilitating improved student learning where improvement is needed. In other words, don't let your assessment findings collect dust on the shelf but use them to help students better learn what you want them to learn.