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Why are we doing this?

The answer is at Why Assess?

Just what is a learning outcome?

Read about learning outcomes here.

What exactly is a rubric?

A rubric or scoring rubric is a grid used to assess student performance relative to one or more learning outcomes. Typically, each column of the grid names an outcome, while each row identifies a level of performance. At each intersection of row and column, a few sentences describe the qualities that define a given level of performance on a given outcome.

What is course-embedded assessment?

Course-embedded assessment uses instructors' ordinary assignments as the basis for assessing student learning. This approach obviates the creation of special activities or tests administered solely for the purpose of assessment. In course-embedded assessment, instructors may assess the work of their own students and forward the results to the assessment coordinator, who aggregates the results of all participating instructors. As an alternative, each instructor may pull a sample of embedded coursework so that the aggregated samples may be scored my teams of readers. When doing course-embedded assessment, it is particularly important to find ways to establish reliability. (See below under "What is reliability in assessment?")

What is validity in assessment?

In assessment, validity refers to the correspondence between assessment results and student learning. Suppose that a means of assessment is designed to measure whether a student knows x. The means of assessment is valid if results indicate that the student knows x only when the student really does know x.

Since it is impossible to know whether a student knows x without relying on some means of assessment, the only way to demonstrate that a means of assessment is valid is to compare its results with those from other means of assessment. If several means of assessment agree in indicating that the student knows x, it is likely that the student indeed knows x. In this way, one means of assessment serves to check the validity of another means.

Hence the importance of using multiple means of assessment.

What is reliability in assessment?

In assessment, reliability refers to the consistency with which a means of assessment yields a certain result. Thus, a scoring rubric is reliable if multiple assessors, applying it to a particular piece of student work, arrive at the same score for that piece of work.

One way to establish that an assessment method is probably reliable is for the assessors who will be using it to hold a practice session in which they apply the method to examples of student work, compare their scores, and discuss whatever differences they find. This activity is likely in itself to increase the reliability of the assessment method because the comparison and discussion of scores leads assessors to be a more fully shared understanding of the standards being applied.

Another way to increase the reliability of an assessment method is to use teams of readers, rather than individuals, to score each piece of student work. The members of a team score the work independently, discuss their results, and settle together on a single score.

I already give my students grades. Isn't that assessment?

Letter grades are useful for evaluating individual student performance but normally do not provide information that is sufficiently specific for program assessment. Typically, grades sum the evaluations of multiple outcomes. Students with the same grade could vary considerably in their ability on a single outcome. Students with different grades could be equal in their ability on a single outcome. If we want to know about student ability related to an outcome, we need to collect information specific to that outcome. The table below, adapted from Nichols, The Departmental Guide and Record Book For Student Outcomes, illustrates this point.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Student A

Student B

Student C

Student D

Student E

Learning Outcomes Average

Outcome I

3

4

1

2

3

2.6

Outcome II

2

5

3

2

5

3.4

Outcome III

4

5

2

3

4

3.6

Outcome IV

4

3

4

5

3

3.8

TOTAL

13

17

10

12

15

 

STUDENT GRADE

C

A

D

C

B

 

What does the Academic Assessment Committee do with assessment results?

Each year, disciplinary programs and General Education Areas report their assessment results to the Assessment Planning Committee. After examining these reports, the APC offers programs and areas suggestions, if necessary, for improving their assessment procedure. The Committee begins its evaluation of a report by running down a checklist of considerations, such as whether outcomes are measurable and whether criteria for success are clearly stated. The Committee also looks for evidence that programs and areas are "closing the assessment loop" - that is, using the evidence of assessment to consider or implement changes in requirements, program structure, teaching methods, etc. in an effort to improve student learning.

The APC does not attempt to evaluate, on the basis of assessment results, whether a program or Gen Ed Area is teaching students successfully. The Committee's business is with evaluating assessment procedure only, not with the interpreting assessment results.

Where can I learn more about the theory and practice of assessment?

A good place to start is the page on Resources for Assessment.