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Assessment of Student Learning


Putting It Into Practice

The best assessment is derived from faculty members' questions about their own teaching experience. Are students meeting your expectations? How well are they mastering a complex concept? Are they developing the "habits of mind" appropriate for your discipline? How well does your teaching approach facilitate learning? Can students demonstrate the skills you have identified as most important? Are they able to apply what they have learned to a novel or more complex problem?

These questions are just a few examples of the kinds of things you may ask yourself when you reflect upon your teaching. Because teaching and learning occurs in a social context, many aspects change over time: your teaching approach may evolve with experience, knowledge in the discipline may change, students' attitudes or expectations change, new technologies emerge that improve communication of complex subjects or allow new forms of interaction, etc. Therefore, assessing effectiveness needs to be continuous, and integrated into your teaching practice as a continual work-in-progress.

It may be helpful to think of assessment as a four-step cycle:

four step assessment cycle

Where to Begin?

  1. Start with clear statements of your most important goals. (What key things will students be able to say, think, or do after completing your course?)
  2. Provide opportunities for students to learn.
  3. Plan your assessments carefully so that they assess the goals you have articulated. (Are students given the opportunity to develop those attributes, and do the course assignments and exams assess them?)
  4. Define clear, appropriate standards for student performance. (What constitutes exemplary, adequate, and poor work?)

Examples from Different Disciplines

Applied Economics and Management

This example illustrates a comprehensive assessment plan that links learning goals, objectives, assessment tools, and a plan for using the results:

Engineering

The link below leads to a general step-by-step description of how to develop an assessment plan, with examples from Engineering:

Fine and Performing Arts

The examples below include an assessment plan from the School of Art at the University of Washington, the Standards and Guidelines of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and Standard Learning Outcomes (SLOs) of the European network of arts institutions, inter}artes. They illustrate how levels of expectations can be linked to learning goals and assessment plans for students' performance-based work:

Humanities

The following links are examples of assessment plans for English, History, and Linguistics. The link to the University of Delaware's Department of English provides examples from several institutions, and shows how examples of student work can be used as evidence that learning goals have been achieved. The example from George Mason University outlines the student learning goals for a major in History, and describes how the requirements of the major relate to the overall goals. For Linguistics, the San Jose example shows a curriculum map illustrating how the various courses contribute to the learning goals, and how they will be assessed. The University of London example is course-specific, outlining the goals of the course and how they will be assessed:

Life Sciences

The example below from the University of Alaska illustrates the goals for a major in Biology and Wildlife, the criteria for assessing whether those goals have been reached, and a plan for how they will be assessed:

Physical Sciences

Both of the examples below illustrate the expectations for a major in the physical sciences. The Geology example outlines learning goals, and suggests ways they may be assessed. The example from Physics is more comprehensive, and links the goals for Physics majors to the courses that comprise the major, and to a plan for assessing those learning outcomes:

Social Sciences

The example below outlines the expectations and goals for Psychology majors at one institution, along with a plan for assessing them. It also includes an example of a survey that could be used to assess whether some of the outcomes have been achieved:

Quick starts: Guides and Templates

Once you have articulated learning goals, you may be interested in using the templates below for assessing student learning. These tools can be very helpful for applying the criteria you have established for student performance, and for tracking progress reaching your goals.

Templates for Assessment Plans
The templates below provide a framework for getting started, and indicate the elements that should be included in any assessment plans.

Grading rubrics

Grading rubrics identify the specific, separate traits you wish to evaluate, and student work is evaluated on a scale from high to low. They can help increase consistency among graders, or make the process for individual graders more consistent or fair. They can also help speed up the grading process. Examples:

Test blueprints

Test blueprints help to ensure that exam questions reflect your learning goals. Examples:

Curriculum mapping

Curriculum mapping allows faculty to track learning goals across courses or programs. They can help identify gaps, facilitate the integration of courses, and help to target course revisions, and are useful for communicating where in a curriculum various learning goals are addressed. Examples: