What is assessment?
Assessment is student-oriented, and should be useful to departments and programs. The Office of Assessment coordinates this process for Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, and can provide help and additional information.
In lay terms, assessment is a process designed to answer the following questions:
- What do we want our students to learn? Knowledge, skills, dispositions – define “Learning Outcomes”
- How are we doing? Gather evidence from “Measures” – define what it means to be successful, e.g. set “Targets”
- How can we do better? Look for ways to improve outcomes and assessment, implement and start the cycle again to see if improvement has in fact occurred – e.g. develop an “Action Plan” aimed at “closing the loop”
Assessment is a process aimed at helping faculty and departments improve student learning through a feedback loop. The process is cyclic and iterative in setting objectives, gathering data, and using the data to make changes that will improve the attainment of the objectives. At any one time, a strong assessment program may be focused on a subset of learning outcomes and measures, but ideally, the process should be continual, systematic, and systemic.
At its heart, assessment involves four main components:
- a list of specific, measurable* student learning outcomes (knowledge, skills, or dispositions we want our students to attain);
- measures/indicators (tools that allow us to measure* student learning outcomes);
- targets (specific goals for student learning that are tied to each measure); and
- an action plan that “closes the loop” (e.g. that uses the results of the measures with respect to the targets to make changes in our teaching or curriculum that will improve the attainment of learning objectives by our students).
* This refers to anything that indicates the extent to which (how well) a student has achieved the expected learning outcome.
Annual Assessment Reports
For your Annual Assessment Reports, you should address the following questions:
- What outcomes were you scheduled to assess during this reporting period, and what outcomes did you assess?
- What evidence did you collect? Summarize your findings.
- What did you and your faculty learn about the effectiveness of your program in enabling students to achieve the outcomes? Strengths and weaknesses.
- As a result of your assessment, what changes have been implemented or are being considered to address areas for improvement? Can include changes in both the program and the assessment plan.
- What outcomes are you planning to assess in the next reporting period?
Specific and concise statements of what we want our students to learn. These should relate to the mission and goals articulated by the department and university. Learning outcomes are typically related to knowledge, skills, and dispositions that we expect of our graduates, and are often worded in a “students will demonstrate / be able to …” format. Common learning outcomes relate to the disciplinary knowledge base, research skills, critical thinking skills, application of knowledge and skills in solving problems, communication skills, values, and attainment of career objectives. These may be closely tied to those identified by a disciplinary association for a particular field, e.g. the American Chemical Society.
Tools that allow us to measure or demonstrate the extent to which student learning outcomes have been achieved. Measures are often classified as “direct” or “indirect” depending on whether they directly measure specific outcomes, or whether they measure some more aggregate or less specific evidence of students having learned.
Examples of Direct Measures:
Examples of Indirect Measures:
Specific levels of achievement tied to each measure that would indicate a successful outcome. Targets should have a justifiable rationale, and should be identified in each assessment cycle with having been met, partially met, or not met, with the results being used to develop an action plan.
The action plan is essential to a successful assessment effort in using the results to “close the loop” by making changes aimed at improving the attainment of student learning outcomes.