Our team consults with administrators, faculty, and staff on best practices for assessment and training, which begin with articulating clear, specific, and measurable objectives based on a program's goals. Furthermore, our team provides guidance on developing an assessment plan, selecting assessment methods to measure goal-related outcomes, and analyzing and reporting assessment results.
These services include, but are not limited to:
We have provided the following assessment toolkit as a resource to faculty members and departments. For further guidance, please contact Worth K. Hayes, Ph.D. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is assessment?
Noted institutional researchers Catherine Palomba and T.W. Banta define assessment as “the systematic collection, review, and use of information about educational programs undertaken for the purpose of improving learning and development.”
Assessment of student learning does not measure what is being taught, but what is actually learned and demonstrated by students.
Course grades, while important, are generally not appropriate assessment indicators as they may not directly convey information about learning outcomes. In some cases, a student’s final grade tally can be composed of different factors (i.e. attendance, extra credit, etc.) which do not reflect actual student learning.
Though not exhaustive, a good assessment program:
Why do we assess student learning?
There are both internal and external reasons to assess student learning:
How do we assess?
There are a number of ways that assessment of student learning can take place on a university campus. Some of the best practices occur when classroom practices reflect and are coordinated with the stated goals of the university and larger departmental units. For example, if a university has a goal to prepare students for the 21st century, it would be prudent for each college, department, and certain courses to assess student mastery of cutting edge knowledge bases, skills, and scholarship.
Assessment of student learning outcomes generally takes place in three steps:
Identifying the Learning Outcome:
When first developing student learning outcomes at the unit level, it may be best to identify learning priorities. This can be based on the university mission, accrediting standards, and/or industry expectations. Faculty can also identify existing classroom practices that can be used to effectively assess student learning.
Determining How the Outcome Will be Assessed
Departmental units will have to determine which faculty and staff members will be responsible for assessing students and in what setting this will take place. Examples include course based assessments, standardized tests, capstone assignments, etc.
While it is necessary to employ direct assessments (where students display knowledge and skills through objective tests, essays, presentations, projects, etc.), some units can also gather valuable data through indirect assessments. These methods require students to reflect on learning rather than demonstrate it. Through surveys, focus groups, course evaluations, etc., students can report on the important processes and experiences that impact learning.
Most direct assessments will require a rubric, which establishes criteria and benchmarks of student competence.
Reflection and Action
After student data has been collected, it is prudent to use the results to inform any changes that need to be made at the course, programmatic, and perhaps university level. The data can highlight those practices in which a department excels and also areas in need of improvement. It should be noted, however, that if a learning outcome is reached too easily by students, the department may want to consider making either the outcome, or the assignments used to assess it, more rigorous.
Writing Student Learning Outcomes
Learning objectives should be measurable and stress what students are expected to learn and come away with after completing the class. They should not focus on what professors will teach. Faculty should use action verbs to determine what students will be able to do such as identify, compare, synthesize, design, etc. It is best for learning objectives at the programmatic or course level to have a mix between lower ordered outcomes that focus on knowledge acquisition and higher ordered outcomes that emphasize analysis and application.
Who is involved in the assessment process?
Ultimately, assessment provides a shared opportunity for an entire university community (faculty, staff, students, alumni, etc.) to determine what its graduates will look like. This includes the competencies, skills, knowledge bases, and experiences students are expected to attain. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness advises and helps coordinate assessment at Tuskegee University.
Of the many university stakeholders, faculty play an especially important role in assessment and should be fully involved in the process. Often times, they help determine which assessment methods and instruments are most appropriate for students. This can involve creating their own assessments or using national examinations
Advantages of Faculty Designed Instruments:
Advantages of National Examinations:
When should assessment take place?
Assessment is an ongoing process to be taken on by a university. Reporting this data will be based on the needs of a program unit, university administration, accrediting body, etc.
For students, assessment can generally take place at the point of entry, exit, and throughout their time at the university. For example, data collected at the point of entry can determine what kind of academic preparations students come with, while assessments at the point of exit can determine what skills graduates have learned while at the university.
Within a classroom setting, faculty often offer pre and post tests for similar reasons. Nonetheless, assessment conducted throughout the course, or classroom assessment techniques, can offer immediate feedback on student learning and can help instructors modify their day-to-day classroom practices accordingly.
Alumni can also be assessed. Reflection on their professional and post-baccalaureate educational experiences can provide important information of how well the university has prepared them.
Where does assessment happen?
Assessment often takes places within a classroom setting. Many faculty consider these course based assessments as convenient as they involve assignments that were already scheduled and thus do not add to their workload.
An academic unit can create a curriculum map where they identify where the introduction, reinforcement, and mastery of their learning objectives will take place.
A university’s general education program often assesses its stated learning goals in individual courses or multiple courses representing a variety of disciplines.
Assessment can also take place outside of the classroom in specifically designated meetings. This is often the case when taking national exams or university wide assessments such as the English Proficiency Exam. Exit exams completed by soon to be graduates can also yield important data on student learning and their experiences at the university.
Below are some additional resources:
Here are some additional references:
Allen, Mary J. Assessing Academic Programs in Higher Education. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, 2004.
Angelo, Thomas A., and K. Patricia Cross. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993.
Baker, G.R. North Carolina A&T University: A Culture of Inquiry. Urbana: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, 2012.
Banta, T.W. and Associates. Building a Scholarship of Assessment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002.
Blaich, Charles, and Kathleen Wise. From Gathering to Using Assessment Results. Lessons from the Wabash National Study. Urbana: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, 2011.
Fink, L. Dee. Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2013.
Middaugh, Michael F. Planning and Assessment in Higher Education: Demonstrating Institutional Effectiveness. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009.
Paloff, Rena M., and Keith Pratt. Assessing the Online Learner: Resources and Strategies for Faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008.
Palomba, C.A. , and T.W. Banta. Assessment Essentials: Planning, Implementing, Improving. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014.
Suskie, Linda A. Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide. 3nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2018.