The purpose of academic assessment is to give faculty a body of evidence on which to base decisions designed to improve teaching and learning. This body of evidence documents how well students are performing relative to faculty-defined student learning outcomes.

  • Identifying faculty expectations of student learning
  • Systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence with regard to desired outcomes
  • Using resulting information to understand and improve student learning

Student learning outcomes specify a particular kind of knowledge, skill, attitude, or value that students are expected to possess by the time they complete a course or a program.

  • Develop the student learning outcomes for the course or program.
  • Check for the alignment of those outcomes with the curriculum being taught.
  • Develop a plan to assess the learning outcomes.
  • Implement the plan and collect assessment data.
  • Discuss the results, determining whether any of the curriculum content,
    courses, or pedagogy needs to be changed.
  • Implement any changes needed and routinely examine the assessment process.

Direct assessment methods are “direct” because they look at actual student work to determine whether the students have learned what the faculty wanted them to learn. Among the direct methods most commonly used are the following: portfolios, course-embedded assessments, capstone experiences or senior projects, standardized tests external to the course, and externally reviewed internships.

Indirect assessment methods require that faculty infer actual student abilities, knowledge, and values rather than observe them through direct methods. Among the indirect methods most commonly used are the following: exit interviews, focus groups, inventories of syllabi and assignments, and surveys. Please note that surveys can yield some useful information for assessing how students perceive what they learned, but they should be used only to supplement direct measures of learning outcomes.

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