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Design assessments


How well are our students progressing toward our program and course-level outcomes?  Which students are progressing well?  What do we know about why they are doing well?  Which students aren't making good progress?  What do we know about them?  When we start with questions about learning and use multiple assessment methods over time, we start to see not just what was learned, but also how it was learned, and who did and did not learn it.

As you prepare your assessment plans, please keep simplicity in mind.  For example, your program may have four or five outcomes that you want to track.  To simplify your work, consider focusing on just one of those outcomes per year.  You might then cycle through those outcomes, devoting a year or a semester or whatever works best for you, to collecting, interpreting, and disseminating information about what your assessment data reveal and how they point you toward improvement.

Aligning Assessments and Outcomes

What you are trying to achieve should direct your assessment choices.  Follow this link to a great resource on matching outcomes to appropriate assessment plans.

The quality of an assessment plan does not depend on its complexity or comprehensiveness.  Quality is, rather, a matter of the plan's ability to provide the faculty who can act on it evidence regarding who is and is not learning.Good assessment is valid and reliable but above all, good assessment is useful.

Clear and Simple

Assessment is the conscientious instructor's best guide to improvement.  So long as an instructor cares about the quality of the learning in his or her classroom, assessment is high on the agenda!

Follow the links for more information on faculty involvement in assessment and what faculty need to know about assessment.

Consider these wise words from Barbara E. Walvoord, author of Assessment Clear and Simple:

  • The end of assessment is action.
  • Instead of focusing on compliance, focus on the information you need for wise action.
  • A department does not need to have a perfect system in order to have an assessment report.
  • Good assessment is paying attention.
  • Keep it simple!

More wise words:

"Most institutions have routinized data collection, but they have little experience in reviewing and making sense of data.  It is far easier to sign up for a survey offered by an outside entity or to have an associate dean interview exiting students than to orchestrate a series of complex conversations with different groups on campus about what the findings from these data mean and what actions might follow."

  -- Blaich and Wise, "From Gathering to Using Assessment Results: Lessons from the Wabash Study"      

"Assessment leaders should avoid doing presentations in which the data and conclusions are simply handed out to faculty. If faculty do not participate in making sense of and interpreting assessment evidence, they are much more likely to focus solely on finding fault with the conclusions than on considering ways that the evidence might be related to their teaching.   

[T]alk about some patterns that [you] see in assessment data and then ask, "What do you think this means?" The goal in these conversations is not to accept just anything that people say in interpreting the data but to engage in a "Yes, that sounds reasonable but how is that consistent with what students say on these questions?" kind of conversation. In many ways, good discussion about assessment data resembles a good seminar discussion about a book. People cite the text, in this case the data, and then dig in, push back, consider their own experience, and try to find broad themes."  

-- Banta and Blaich, "Closing the Assessment Loop"

Direct and Indirect Evidence of Learning

    Direct evidence of learning Indirect evidence of learning

    Course assignments

    Capstone projects

    Senior theses, exhibits, or performances

    Student publications, conference presentations

    Student teaching evaluations

    Internship supervisor reports

    Research projects

    Standardized tests

    Pre-Post testing

    The "Think-Aloud" Protocol

    Focus group interviews

    Course evaluations

    Enrollment information

    Program review data

    Job placement

    Employer or alumni surveys

    Exit surveys

    Graduate school placement rates

    Global Perspectives Inventory

    Student Assessment of their Learning Gains

    BYU-Idaho Tools



    Giving Student Feedback

    Assessing for Transfer and Application