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Educational Effectiveness Resources

Assessment Resources

What is Assessment?

Assessment is the ongoing process of

  • establishing clear, measurable expected outcomes of student learning
  • ensuring that students have sufficient opportunities to achieve these outcomes
  • systematically gathering, analyzing and interpreting evidence to determine how well student learning matches our expectations
  • using the resulting information to understand and improve student learning
    (adapted from Assessing Student Learning by Linda Suskie, 2009)

  • Direct Assessment Methods include standardized and locally developed tests, student portfolios, embedded assessments and course activities, and oral examinations (competence interviews)
  • Indirect Assessment Methods include surveys, interviews, focus groups, and reflective essays
  • Embedded Assessment occurs within the regular class or curricular activity. Class assignments linked to student learning outcomes through primary trait analysis serve as grading and assessment instruments (i.e., common test questions, projects or writing assignments). Specific questions can be embedded on exams in classes across courses, departments, programs, or the institution. Embedded assessment can provide formative information for pedagogical improvement and student learning needs.
  • Authentic Assessment simulates a real world experience by evaluating the student’s ability to apply critical thinking and knowledge or to perform tasks that may approximate those found in the work place or other venues outside of the classroom setting. In contrast, traditional assessment sometimes relies on indirect or proxy items such as multiple choice questions focusing on content or facts.

  • Assessment-Review Cycle is the process, also called closing the loop, which is the completion of student learning outcomes creation, data collection, analysis, and reevaluation

Suggestions for Classroom Assessment: One-Minute Paper
The one-minute paper is a simple and low-tech classroom assessment device:  

  • Conclude the regular class lecture or discussion a minute or two before the end of the class.
  • Ask each student to take out a sheet of paper and write down, anonymously, brief answers to two questions:
    1. What is the big point, the main idea that you learned in class today?
    2. What is the main unanswered question you leave class with today? What is the “muddiest” point?
  •  Collect student responses (you may place a box next to the door of the classroom and students will drop their papers into the box as they leave) and riffle through them. It usually takes 5-10 minutes.
  •  You will be surprised at how quickly you will learn exactly what the students understood, what was not so clear to them, and even may get some good ideas about how to begin your next class, in response to these one-minute papers.

The additional benefits of administering this simple test include:
1. It requires more active listening from students.
2. It helps students identify for themselves how they are doing in your class.
3. It improves and focuses students' writing. Responses during the last week of a class are usually longer and more thoughtful and articulate than those during the early weeks.
4. It helps document for students that they are indeed learning something substantial in the course.
5. It can be documented as an indirect assessment technique for assessment purposes.
(adapted from Making the Most of the College: Students Speak Their Minds by Richard Light, 2001)

Assessment Glossary

Online Dictionary of Student Outcome Assessment developed at James Madison University allows you to search for assessment-related terminology.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • SLO definition Student learning outcomes (SLOs) are the specific observable or measurable results that are expected subsequent to a learning experience. These outcomes may involve knowledge (cognitive), skills (behavioral), or attitudes (affective) that provide evidence that learning has occurred as a result of a specified course, program activity, or process. A SLO refers to an overarching outcome for a course (CLO), degree or certificate program (PLO and General Education SLO), student services area (such as the library), or institutional outcome (ILO).

  • The Basic Features of SLOs:
  • Consistent with the institution/program mission and goals
  • Realistic
  • Few in number
  • Assessable
  • Used by faculty/staff to set priorities and make data-guided decisions concerning curriculum, pedagogy, faculty support, student support, and resource allocation.

  • Types of Student Learning Outcomes
  • Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs)
  • Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs)
  • General Education Student Learning Outcomes (GE SLOs)
  • Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)

Assessment Toolbox