Frequently Asked Questions

The Assessment Cycle
What Is Assessment?

Assessment is "the systematic and ongoing process of gathering, analyzing, and using information from multiple sources to draw inferences about the characteristics of students, programs, or an institution for the purpose of making informed decisions to improve the learning process" (Linn & Miller, 2005). The principle that assessment is a systematic and continuous process, not an end product, is central to this definition.

Assessment is...Assessment is not...
a cyclical processan end goal
planned and systematicrandom and variable
ongoing and cumulativeone point in time
informativea judgment
transparentunclear or hidden
faculty designed and implementedimposed from the top down
What Are the Defining Units of Analysis?

Classroom assessment: assessing an individual student’s learning experience in a course

Program assessment: assessing a group of students’ learning experience in relation to a program, departmental major or unit of study

Institutional assessment: assessing campuswide factors

Why Is Assessment Essential?

If you don’t know where you are going, the best-made maps won’t help you get there” (Mager, 1997, p. vi).

1) Assessment promotes self-reflection, which is essential for effective teaching and learning (Assessment: FAQ, Stanford University). It helps you to reflect on:

  • What goals you are trying to accomplish
  • How well you are meeting those goals
  • How you can improve

2) Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education Standard 14: Assessment of Student Learning—“Assessment of student learning demonstrates that, at graduation, or other appropriate points, the institution’s students have knowledge, skills, and competencies consistent with institutional and appropriate higher education goals” (MSCHE, 2009).

What Are the Different Types of Assessment?

Assessment involves collecting evidence of student learning and attainment of intended learning outcomes. To develop a more complete understanding of the extent of student learning, multiple pieces of evidence are needed. Evidence of student learning can be direct or indirect. To obtain the best indication of student learning, a combination of direct and indirect measures should be used.

  • Direct assessment: evidence based on directly examining and measuring students’ performance (e.g., exams, projects, papers, portfolio assignments, oral presentations, fieldwork observations)
  • Indirect assessment: evidence based on reports of perceived student learning (e.g., surveys and interviews with students, employers, faculty)
What Does It Mean to “Close the Loop”?

It means to take action by using assessment results to make program-level improvements or decisions. This might include:

  1. Revising your program-level outcomes
  2. Changing curricula by adding or removing courses or program experiences, requiring prerequisite courses, changing instructional methods or assignments within courses
  3. Creating or modifying assessments
  4. Creating or modifying rubrics
  5. Using assessment results to support current program practices or to make other program policies or decisions
Transparency Is Key!

Transparency showcases evidence of student learning from program experiences. It also enables you to reflect on program practices and effectiveness for meeting student outcomes.