Assessment: The cycle of collecting, reviewing and analyzing information about student learning with the goal of investigating and implementing any needed change in student performance, at the individual level, and curriculum improvement at the program level. As a Jesuit institution, Loyola University Chicago embraces the need to reflect on assessment data as a means to continuously evaluate whether we are meeting our stated student learning outcomes and the goals of our academic programs.
“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 it is embedded effectively within larger institutional systems, assessment can help us focus our collective attention, examine our assumptions, and create a shared academic culture dedicated to assuring and improving the quality of higher education.” (Angelo).
Direct assessment: measures students’ actual knowledge or skill rather than their perception of their achievement. Exams, juried evaluations, portfolio review, capstone projects and course-embedded assessments are examples of direct assessment techniques.
Embedded assessment: assessment included within a course that will also be scored as part of the student grade. Embedded questions are scored according to a rubric or measure that indicates the student’s level of achievement toward the stated course learning outcomes.
Evaluation: analysis of student performance for the purpose of assigning a grade or permission to proceed within a course or program. Evaluation differs from assessment as it is designed to be an indicator of accomplishment rather than a guide for improvement.
Formative assessment: the process of soliciting feedback and information from students regarding their perceptions of their progress throughout the course. Some faculty use mid-term exams or papers to determine whether students understand course content. The key element is that the faculty member reflects on the information gathered during the course to validate that learning is moving in a positive direction.
Goals and objectives: these terms are often used interchangeably, but they are significantly different in scope. Goals are broad, long-term statements that indicate the general direction a program or individual plans to take. Objectives, on the other hand, are more specific indicators of intent. Objectives are measurable and can be part of a goal. For example, the goal might be to have students gain an understanding of social justice; the objectives might include participation in community programs, writing a paper or exam, etc.
Indirect assessment: records students’ attitudes or perceptions of their knowledge or achievement as opposed to objectively measuring that knowledge. Exit surveys, focus groups and interviews are examples of indirect assessment.
Learning outcome (student learning outcome): A statement describing the knowledge, skills, values, dispositions, attitudes, and/or experiences that students should acquire through completion of a course or program of study. Intended learning outcomes should be stated in measurable terms (e.g. The student will be able to discriminate among various cultural mores).
Portfolio: contains a collection of student work, frequently added over the course of study within a program. Departments or programs identify for students the types of documents to include in the portfolio as well as what criteria will be used to assess student performance.
Rubrics: a guide or summary of the criteria used for determining student success on a particular assignment or assessment. Rubrics include a rating scale that scores student performance compared to the stated criteria. Providing the rubric along with the assignment details gives students an indication of the standards used to assess performance.
Summative: assessment done at the end of a unit, course or program that frequently determines what grade a student will receive. Designed to determine students’ achievement, summative assessment can be used to assess whether students have met the stated learning outcomes for a course.
Resources and Works Cited:
American Public University System. http://www.apus.edu/academic-community/learning-outcomes-assessment/glossary. July, 2009.
Angelo, Thomas. Reassessing (and defining) assessment. The AAHE Bulletin, 48(2), 1995, 7-9.
California State University, Fresno. http://www.fresnostate.edu/academics/oie/assessment/resources.html. July, 2009.
State University of New York at Potsdam. http://www.potsdam.edu/sites/default/files/documents/offices/ie/assessment/Assessment_Glossary_of_Terms-2.pdf. July, 2009.