Assessment methods are:
- the strategies;
- tools and instruments for collecting information to determine the extent to which students demonstrate desired learning outcomes;
Several of these methods should be used to assess student learning outcomes.
Why is it important to use multiple methods? Relying on only one method to provide information about the program will only reflect a part of students’ achievement. Additionally, SLO may be difficult to assess using only one method. For each SLO, a combination of direct and indirect assessment methods should be used. For example, responses from student surveys may be informative, however, when combined with students’ test results they will be more meaningful, valid, and reliable.
What are direct and indirect methods of assessment? Direct methods of assessment ask students to demonstrate their learning while indirect methods ask students to reflect on their learning. Tests, essays, presentations, etc. are generally direct methods of assessment, and indirect methods include surveys and interviews.
Can grades be used for assessment? Even though course grades are a source of information about student achievement, they are generally insufficient in measuring the student learning outcomes of the program. Grades may not identify whether the SLO have been achieved, may include factors not related to SLO such as class participation, and faculty members may differ in their grading policies and practices. Considering these limitations, however, grades MAY be able to be used for program assessment IF they relate to the program’s SLO and if grading methods are consistent across program faculty and courses. There is a book dedicated to the use of grades as an assessment measure. (Walvoord, Barbara, & Anderson, Virginia Johnson. (1998). Effective grading: A tool for learning and assessment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.)
What are embedded assessment methods? Embedded assessments utilize existing student course work as both a grading instrument as well as data for assessing SLO. Embedded assessments are also referred to as “classroom-based” or “continuous” assessments. Embedded assessments can assess individual student performance, the course, or the program if the information is aggregated; they can be formative or summative, quantitative or qualitative. If embedded assessments are properly designed, students should not be able to tell whether they are being taught or assessed. For example, as part of a course, each student completes a research paper that is graded for content and style, but is also assessed for advanced ability to locate and evaluate Web-based information (as part of a college-wide outcome to demonstrate information literacy).
What existing information can be used for program assessment? There may be numerous types of course work that can be utilized for the assessment of SLO. Some modifications may be made to the existing assignments in order to more directly assess the SLO of the program. Additionally, a rubric may be developed for instructors to use for grading and scoring the assessment.
Below are some examples of information that may already be collected by programs: Course exams Course assignments/projects Essays, written exams, research papers, etc. Second year assignments or projects, capstone
When reviewing existing course material to determine whether it can be utilized for the assessment of student learning outcomes, consider asking:
Does assessment method/instrument answer (assessment) questions? Does it yield the information/data needed to understand how students learn and what can be improved? What revisions might be necessary? Are there other or additional assessment tools that are needed? Are there other departments that might benefit from knowing about the tools being used?
Which assessment method should be used for assessment? Each program will select the assessment methods that will provide the most useful and relevant information for the purposes that the program and its faculty have identified. When selecting which assessment methods to use, consider what questions need to be answered, the availability of resources, and the usefulness of the results. Programs may find it valuable to identify what information currently exists in the program that can be utilized as well as what assessment methods have been used for past assessments.