What Is Assessment?
Assessment is the systematic collection , review , and use of information about educational programs undertaken for the purpose of improving student learning and development (Palomba & Banta).
Assessment is an ongoing process aimed at understanding and improving student learning. It involves making our expectations explicit and public; setting appropriate criteria and high standards for learning quality; systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well performance matches those expectations and standards; and using the resulting information to document, explain, and improve performance.
When we do assessment we essentially ask:
Common Assessment Terminology
ASSESSMENT OF STUDENT LEARNING Assessment is a systematic process for gathering information about student learning; it answers the question, "How do we know what students are learning, and how well they are learning it?"
As a process, it has five steps:
1) specify learning objectives;
2) select teaching and learning strategies;
3) gather data on student learning;
4) evaluate the data; and
5) make decisions and implement them.
Formative assessment is the gathering of data on student learning during an instructional encounter. It helps the instructor to identify concepts or skills that students are not learning well, and to take steps to improve student learning while the course is still in progress. (Also called classroom assessment.)
Summative assessment is the gathering of data on student learning at the conclusion of a course, as a basis for judging student knowledge and skills. It helps the instructor to plan for the next offering of the course.
Assessment tools are the instruments used to gather data about student learning. Tools can be both quantitative and qualitative, and refer to both traditional paper-and-pencil tests, as well as to alternative forms of assessment such as oral examinations, group problem-solving, performances and demonstrations, portfolios, peer observations, and others.
A benchmark is an example of student performance at a given level of competence. Examples of actual student work are used to illustrate different levels of competence on a performance scale. (Also called anchors or exemplars).
A capstone is a project planned and carried out by the student during the final semester as the
culmination of the educational experience. These projects typically require higher-level thinking skills,
problem-solving, creative thinking, and integration of learning from various sources.
A test intended to establish that a student has met established minimum standards of skills and
knowledge and is thus eligible for an acknowledgment of achievement such as graduation, certification,
Criteria are statements about the dimensions of competency that will be assessed; they specify
important components of the desired knowledge or skill that the student should learn and be able to
demonstrate. For example, for oral communication, one criterion could be maintaining eye contact with
Data gathering about learning that occurs as part of the course, such as tests, papers, projects, or
portfolios; as opposed to data gathering that occurs outside the course, e.g., student placement testing.
A value judgment about the results of data collected on student learning. Evaluation of student learning
requires that the instructor compare data collected on student performance to a pre-defined outcome
expectation in order to determine what the student has learned and how well.
Making a judgment about a student's learning by using an overall appraisal of a student's entire
performance, rather than by scoring or analyzing separate dimensions of the performance individually.
Used in situations where the demonstration of learning is considered to be more than the sum of its parts,
and so the complete final product or performance is evaluated as a whole. The instructor matches his or
her overall impressions to pre-defined expectations for learning outcomes and makes a judgment.
An individual question or exercise in a test.
A journal is a written record made by a student on a regular basis, for example, daily or weekly. It may
also be called a log, notebook, diary, or progress sheet. It may be a collection of facts, an account of
experiences, and/or reflective comments on facts or experiences. May be kept on paper or by computer.
METHODS OF ASSESSMENT
Methods of assessment are selected procedures used to gather data on student learning. These
methods are selected in relation to the specified learning outcome to be assessed; the type of evidence of
learning available; the type of performance to be observed; and the agreed-upon scoring procedures.
Methods may involve paper-and-pencil tests; alternative methods are often referred to as performance
based, authentic, or complex-generated.
A broad educational goal that the student is expected to achieve by the end of the course, relative to
some knowledge or skill. Outcomes may be broken down into smaller and more specific learning
Teaching and learning strategies are selected which will assist the student to meet the stipulated
learning outcomes at an acceptable level. Students must demonstrate an acceptable level of mastery of the
expected outcomes in order to be awarded educational credit.
Evidence of student achievement of the knowledge and skill components of a course is collected from
students in the form of a performance or product. The process the student uses reveals as much about the
student's understanding of the knowledge and ability to apply it as the final outcome. It is part of the
teaching and learning process, a continuous interaction between instructor and student. It requires clear
statements of expected learning outcomes and clearly articulated and communicated criteria and
A systematic and organized collection of a student's work that exhibits to others the direct evidence of
a student's efforts, achievements, and progress over a period of time. Portfolios may include a variety of
demonstrations of learning in the form of papers, projects, videos, web pages, CD-ROMs, journals, etc.
A description of the standards that will be used to judge a student's work on each of the criteria or
important dimensions of learning. It is a scoring guide that is used in subjective appraisals of student
work. It makes explicit statements about the expected qualities of performance at each point on a scale or
at each rank in an ordered scoring system, for example, excellent, good, fair, poor, unacceptable.
A process in which a student engages in a systematic review of his or her own performance or
learning, usually for the purpose of improving in the future. May involve comparison with a standard, or
established criteria. Students learn to set goals and monitor their own progress toward goals.
A description of the expected level of student performance on the important dimensions of the learning
objectives specified for the course. The instructor develops the standards to describe the proficiency level
that must be attained by each student. Each student's work is compared to the standard, rather than to the
work of other students.
A standardized test is a measure of student learning (or other ability) that has been widely used with
other students. Standardized scores (e.g., mean, standard deviation, percentiles) have been developed so
that a student taking the test can compare his or her score to the historical data. These are also sometimes
called achievement tests. Examples are the SAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, etc.