Once your Foundations are in place, and you've selected the learning outcome(s) for your annual assessment, it's time to think about how to assess the outcome. How can you best understand the impact of your program (course, learning activity) on student learning? This section will help you select different assessment methods, and guide the interpretation and use of data.
Curricular and co-curricular programs alike should integrate "direct assessment" methods of student learning where possible and supplement these direct methods with "indirect assessment."
Direct measures of student learning assess actual student work or performance of identified learning outcomes (usually as part of the students’ regular participation in the academic or co-curricular experience.) Faculty, staff, or other professionals are looking directly at student work or performances to determine what they've learned.
Indirect measures of student learning are approximations of student learning, and often based on self-report from the students themselves. They are indirect because the program is not measuring learning from actual student performance. Instead it is collecting data on opinions or activities that may be proxies for learning, but may undervalue or overvalue the actual learning that has taken place.
Common Questions about Outcomes Assessment
1. What other kinds of data beyond direct and indirect assessment measures should a program collect?
Depending on the questions a program has about students’ learning or experience, other supporting documentation may be useful. For instance, programs may want to examine campus records such as enrollment data, gpa, grade distributions, retention and graduation data, job placement data, graduate school acceptance rates, etc.
2. Why can’t graded assignment or course grades be used for assessment?
Assignment and course grades are used for a different purpose than outcomes assessment. Grades are meant to indicate how well individual students have met a faculty member's expectations for an assignment or the entire class. Some of these expectations may not be directly or solely aligned with a student’s progress on learning outcomes for the course or program. Outcomes assessment is a direct measure of a student's learning on course-level and/or program-level outcomes.
3. Why can't we just rely on students’ completion of exit surveys?
While exit surveys can be informative and help guide course or program improvement, they are rarely designed to demonstrate students’ proficiency on specific learning outcomes. Educational Assessment recommends integrating direct assessment measures of student work or performance wherever possible and supplementing those measures within indirect assessments like exit surveys.