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IDENTIFYING ASSESSMENT MEASURES

When program/discipline faculty have arrived at clear ideas of what the outcomes of the program are and where students learn and practice the skills and competencies, they can begin to identify the measures most appropriate for assessing student learning and development. As stated earlier, well-written outcomes tend to clarify which assessment measures are best for assessment use. Strong, advanced assessment programs are characterized by multiple measures of assessment. They do not rely on one single assessment test to provide them the information they need about their many program outcomes. Newer programs, with little assessment experience, often begin the process with multiple choice knowledge tests. Many disciplines have a strong tradition of performance assessment in which recitals, dance, demonstrations, or portfolios are reviewed. Some outcomes seem to be more amenable to assessment with multiple-choice examinations and others are best evaluated with an actual performance or product review. At this stage of design, identification and selection of the best measures for each of the program outcome is conducted.

It is not necessary to develop a different measure for each outcome; a test can be designed to assess a variety of outcomes, and a performance task can be designed to address several outcomes. Also, some outcomes simply cannot be measured with a multiple-choice or selected-response instrument. There are many assessment measures from which to choose: selected-response tests, constructed response tests, recitals, performance tasks, or interview/feedback from employers. It may not be possible to develop measures to assess all of your outcomes right away. The important thing is to get started and to develop a plan to do so.

When program outcomes have been drafted, discussed, and finalized, a useful exercise is to link the outcomes to the program's curricular experiences and/or course offerings. For example, create a table ("curriculum map") that lists each of the outcomes of the program matched with the opportunities the program provides to meet each outcome. In this way, faculty and students can see where and in what sequence outcomes are addressed and reinforced. Through this method, you could discover that the information you thought was covered in previous classes was not, or assist new faculty members in providing structure for course planning (e.g., faculty know what their courses must cover, and they can plan accordingly).

Curriculum Map
Program Name:
Intended Student Outcomes
Depth of Coverage
Courses
ABC 101
ABC 110
ABC 200
ABC 210
ABC 220
ABC 295
Outcome #1 Basic Introduction or Review
X
X
X
Advanced Application
X
X
Outcome #2 Basic Introduction or Review
X
X
X
Advanced Application
X
X
Outcome #3 Basic Introduction or Review
X
X
X
Advanced Application
X
X
Outcome #4 Basic Introduction or Review
X
X
Advanced Application
X
X

After you have identified the course(s) that require students to demonstrate proficiency for a given outcome, select the best course from which assessment data will be collected. Using the table below, list all intended student learning outcomes and list all assessment measures required by the course. Mark [X] for each assessment measure that addresses an outcome by requiring students to demonstrate an advanced application of their knowledge.

Outcome-Measure Comparison Matrix
Course Name:
Intended Student Outcomes
Assessment Measures

Homework (1/10/04)

Quiz

(1/12/04)

Case Study

(1/15/04)

Project

(2/5/04)

Midterm

(2/11/04)

Paper

(2/21/04)

Mock Interview

(3/10/04)

Exhibition

(3/20/04)

Portfolio

(4/10/04)

Oral Exam

(4/30/04)

Cumulative Final Exam

 (5/1/04)

Outcome #1
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
Outcome #2
X
X
X
X
X
Outcome #3
X
X
X
X
Outcome #4
X
X
X
X

After you have identified the assessment measures that require students to demonstrate proficiency for a given outcome, select the "best" assessment measure [e.g., data/scores are readily available, easy to collect, and represents students culminating or best work]. Using the table below, list all intended student learning outcomes and list all test items/questions/required by the course. Mark [X] for each test item or rubric criteria that addresses an outcome by requiring students to demonstrate an advanced application of their knowledge.

Outcome-Test Item Comparison Matrix
Assessment Measure :
Intended Student Outcomes
Test items
Rubric Criteria
1
2
3
4
5
Clarity (5/5)
Facts (5/5)
Organization (10/10)
Creativity (10/10)
Time (10/10)
Conclusion (5/5)
Outcome #1
X
X
X
X
Outcome #2
X
X
Outcome #3
X
Outcome #4
X

Note: Commercially available instruments may not be appropriate for assessment of our programs. By creating/utilizing our own course-based instruments, we can tailor them specifically to the outcomes of each program. We can also pilot and revise the instruments to assure they meet our needs. As we modify our program outcomes, we can revise our instruments. Being able to develop and modify our own assessment instruments helps us to maintain the flexibility we need.

Types of Assessment Measures: Direct vs. Indirect

Direct measures take a variety of forms and provide for the direct examination or observation of student knowledge or skills against measurable learning outcomes. When utilizing direct measures, we ask students to demonstrate what they know or can do with their knowledge. Most of these data can be gathered directly from course-embedded assessments or assignments. These types of measures include classroom tests, teacher generated, standardized, industry certification test, oral exams, pop quizzes, pre-post testing; competency-based measures such as performance appraisals & internships, simulations and role playing; external reports such as judging of portfolios by industry professionals; other direct measures such as teacher observations, class participation, research projects, portfolios, case studies, and reflection papers.

Indirect measures also come in different shapes and sizes, but these measures of student learning ascertain the perceived extent or value of learning experiences. Indirect assessments of learning include self-report measures such as survey data from students, graduates, and employers. These surveys typically ask respondents to share their perceptions about what the students know or can do with their knowledge. Ideally, our assessment measures should include both direct and indirect assessment of student learning.

Course-Embedded Measures

In the second edition of their book, "Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers," T. Angelo and K. Cross list and describe 50 classroom assessment techniques. This popular 1993 book was published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and lists the following direct and indirect assessments:

  • Analytic Memos
  • Annotated Portfolios
  • Applications Cards
  • Approximate Analogies
  • Assignment Assessments
  • Audio- and Videotaped Protocols
  • Background Knowledge Probe
  • Categorizing Grid
  • Chain Notes
  • Classroom Assessment Quality Circles
  • Classroom Opinion Polls
  • Concept Maps
  • Content, Form, and Function Outlines
  • Course-Related Self-Confidence Surveys
  • Defining Features Matrix
  • Diagnostic Learning Logs
  • Directed Paraphrasing
  • Documented Problem Solutions
  • Double-Entry Journals
  • Electronic Mail Feedback
  • Empty Outlines
  • Everyday Ethical Dilemmas
  • Exam Evaluations
  • Focused Autobiographical Sketches
  • Focused Listing
  • Goal Ranking and Matching
  • Group Instructional Feedback Technique
  • Group-Work Evaluations
  • Human Tableau or Class Modeling
  • Interest/Knowledge/Skills Checklist
  • Invented Dialogues
  • Memory Matrix
  • Minute Paper
  • Misconception/Preconception Check
  • Muddiest Point
  • One-Sentence Summary
  • Paper or Project Prospectus
  • Pro and Con Grid
  • Problem Recognition Tasks
  • Process Analysis
  • Productive Study-Time Logs
  • Profiles of Admirable Individuals
  • Punctuated Lectures
  • Reading Rating Sheets
  • RSQC2 (Recall, Summarize, Question, Comment, and Connect)
  • Self-Assessment of Ways of Learning Student-Generated Test Questions
  • Teacher-Designed Feedback Forms
  • What's the Principle?
  • Word Journal

Angelo and Cross categorized these assessment measures into three major techniques:

  1. Techniques for assessing course-related knowledge and skills

  2. Techniques for assessing learner attitudes, values, and self-awareness

  3. Techniques for assessing learner reactions to instructions
Data Collection Points

Once assessment methods have been identified, it is necessary to decide when to administer them. Some examples of data collection points within a program are entry level course, keystone course, and capstone course, while examples within a course are "over the course of a semester" and "specific point in time." We need to reflect on the length and scope of the assessment techniques you are currently implementing or you’d like to implement. The time and circumstance of when you administer an assessment should depend on what you are trying to evaluate and learn. This is generally true in research: the inquiry method you use is dependent upon the questions you want to answer, so think about what you want to learn from assessment results.

Data Collection Points for Programs

Capstone Course: Another frequently used assessment point is the capstone course. Many programs provide students with degrees, certificates, or diplomas that culminate in a final integrating course, known as a capstone. These final course requirements can include student research experiences, laboratory tasks, term papers, performance recitals, or seminar activities through which students demonstrate many of the most important program goals and objectives. Capstone courses therefore provide a natural home for assessment activities.

Entry Level Course: For many program goals, it may be useful to assess student understanding or readiness during an entry level required course that serves as an introduction to the program/discipline. This can serve as a fine pre-test data collection point. When the program assesses their graduating students during their final semester, this pre-test data can provide a meaningful frame of reference for interpretation of program outcomes.

Keystone Course: Some programs have embedded assessment methods in what are referred to as keystone courses. This involves a set of common core courses that are required by all degree- or certificate-seekers. For example, all students seeking an AAS degree in Accounting must take a series of accounting courses. The ACC 231-241-251 courses are examples of keystone courses, because they mark the last courses in a required series. Assessment activities in these courses ensure that all students have had several prerequisite educational experiences and are declared Accounting "majors." Assessment of student knowledge and competence at this point ensures that all students have acquired the necessary skills considered prerequisite for advanced academic standing. Collecting data from students after these keystone courses can provide programs with significant opportunities to assess the quality of their core courses and compare the quality of their majors over time.
Data Collection Points for Courses

Take a few moments to answer some key questions about timing of assessment measures. If you answered “yes” to questions 1, 2 or 3, you should plan on using an assessment method that gauges student learning over time. If you answered “yes” to questions 4, 5, or 6, you will need an assessment method that evaluates student learning at a specific point in time. Of course, it is quite possible that all the questions are of interest to you and you may want to incorporate both types of assessment in your model. [Source: assessment handbook published by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst]

Assessing at a Specific Point in Time:Assessing at specific points in time means measuring student learning at critical events or circumstances in your course. It can mean assessing:

  • at the start of the semester,
  • after a particularly in-depth lecture,
  • at times when you think ideas are not flowing as freely as they might,
  • to clear up potential areas of confusion, or
  • to encourage reflective thinking on particular issues or topics.


Assessing student learning at specific points in time facilitate the learning experience and help students become more conscious of their learning. By linking course feedback to your goals and objectives, the learning/evaluation process becomes more “real” for students. It gives them the opportunity to reflect on their own learning in the context of articulated learning outcomes for the course and to gauge the extent to which they are meeting these outcomes. They, and you, can then make timely adjustments to teaching and learning in the classroom.

So you want to assess student learning at specific points in time? Among the COUNTLESS assessment tools and techniques, here are JUST 9 worth considering:

  • Primary trait analysis
  • Minute papers
  • Misconception/Preconception check
  • Muddiest point
  • Punctuated Lectures
  • Chain Notes
  • Classroom Opinion Polls
  • Reading reaction
  • Paper reaction

Assessing Over the Course of a Semester:We now have a group of assessment techniques that can be used to evaluate student learning at key points in the course. Each of these techniques can become part of a long-term assessment plan by being used repeatedly as the course goes along. Results from each set of assignments can help the instructor and the students see progress on the learning outcomes unfold as the semester progresses.

Additionally, there are a variety of assessment tasks that have been developed specifically to address long-term results. Tracking student achievement over time is one of the best ways that we, as instructors, have to document that students are really accomplishing what we intend. Incorporating classroom assessment into our teaching and curriculum design facilitates specific documentation of results that clearly demonstrate student learning from the beginning of the semester until the end of the course.

So you want to assess student learning over the course of a semester? Among the countless assessment tools and techniques, here are 4 worth considering:

  • Primary trait analysis
  • Systematic progression of assignments
  • Pre/post-test survey
  • Portfolio analysis


So in terms of timing and the need for revisions to current assessments or adapting new ones…its your call.

Click on the link to download a handout that discusses these "over-the-course-of-a-semester" techniques.

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