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Choosing Assessment Methods

The process of choosing assessment methods is tied directly to the formulation of learning outcomes; no one kind of assessment works equally well across all learning outcomes.

For most, if not all, of your outcomes, you will want to assess at more than one point in the program. Even if you expect that students have mastered a particular skill after a certain point in the program, you will want to check and see if they still have command of that skill as seniors. Assessment methods are used to evaluate student learning by comparing a student’s product or performance against some standard or benchmark at a particular point in time (e.g., the end of an instructional unit, course, or program). These are ordinarily high stakes, high point-value products or performances. They can be embedded in particular courses or can be stand-alone tasks. Looking at the performance of groups of students on an assessment gives the faculty a picture of how the program is doing in achieving a particular learning outcome.

You have two aspects of assessment to consider: the product to be assessed and the method by which it will be assessed.  Here are some common examples of products to be assessed:

  • Final or comprehensive exam
  • Licensure or qualifying exam
  • Standardized test
  • Portfolio
  • Capstone project
  • Research paper
  • Thesis/dissertation
  • Presentation/Speech/Debate
  • Recital/show/audition
  • Observation



Answering the following questions will help guide faculty to develop effective assessment tasks.

  • What knowledge, skills, and dispositions do I expect students to draw upon in this task?
  • In what real-life settings do individuals use the knowledge that I identified and what ill-defined problems do they typically address?
  • For each ill-defined problem, what task(s) could I sketch out for students to complete?
  • Which task best exemplifies the characteristics of an exemplary assessment task?
  • Which assessment format will work best for this task?
  • What criteria should my students and I use in shaping and critiquing student work?

 

Characteristics of Effective Assessments

Actionable

Identify what students are learning well and what requires more attention

Authentic

Address ill-defined problems/issues that are enduring or emerging

Challenging

Provoke, as well as evaluate, student learning

Coherent

Are structured so that activities lead to desired performance product

Engaging

Provoke student interest and persistence

Respectful

Allow students to reveal their uniqueness as learners

Responsive

Provide feedback to students leading to improvement

Rigorous

Require use of declarative, procedural, and metacognitive knowledge

Triangulated

Yield multiple lines of evidence that point to the same conclusion

Valid

Yield useful information to guide learning