Strategies for Effective Assessment

Assessment Begins with Clear, Measurable Learning Outcomes

Assessment can only be effective if we are clear about what we want to assess. The assessment of student learning begins then with carefully stating what outcomes we expect from our classes or programs. Below are some outcomes that could effectively lead to assessment.

  • Graduates will be able to be able to perform a complete, professional audit of the financial records of a model company of which they are unfamiliar.
  • Graduates will be able to design an effective advertising campaign - including an identification of the key media, suggestion of appropriate branding, and the preparation of copy - and make an engaging presentation to a client.
  • Graduates will be able to perform an oral examination of selected patients and correctly identify all key problems.
  • At the end of this course, students will be able to explain the impact of historical factors - including the changing knowledge of the general public, shifting attitudes towards technology, basic changes in cultural attitudes, the shifts in readership, the role of editors, and the changing media - on the development of the form and content of the science fiction genre.
  • At the end of this course, students will be able to successful apply appropriate lab techniques and a knowledge of chemistry to identify several unknown inorganic substances.
  • At the end of this course, students will be able to diagnose, explain, and repair several different problems in the electrical system of a motor vehicle.

Of course, part of effective assessment is knowing what level of competency we expect from students. It is unlikely and unrealistic to expect 100% of the students to have 100% competency. Do we expect 90% of the students to be able to apply key concepts of macro-economics to successfully analyze economic cases with 75% correct responses? Do we expect 80% of the students in a business writing course to achieve Very Strong on six out of eight criteria on their Analytic Long Report. Many programs such as those in the Health Sciences know fairly accurately what would be an excellent result by their students on certification exams which in turn provide very good feed back on the relative success of the programs. We can only be effective at assessment if we know what we really expect our students to learn and with what levels of success.

Often Less is More

We cannot assess everything without being overwhelmed. To effectively assess student learning, we need to identify what it is most important for us to learn about our students and target that outcome for research.