Incorporating and Documenting Effective Assessment
"If you are serious about quality, everybody has to know how they are doing."
(Marchese, 1991, pg. 5)
Assessment is an integral part of the
educational process. While many instructors think of assessment as a final
outcome measure to determine students' understanding and, consequently, course
grades, quality assessment is woven throughout course goals, learning
objectives, and instructional activities. Assessment is designed to guide both
instructors and students by providing insight on student learning and the
effectiveness of instructional activities.
|Assessment of Student Learning
||Assessment of Instructional Activities
"What students learn depends as much on your tests as your teaching."
(McKeachie, 1999, pg. 85)
"Assessment is a process in which rich, usable, credible feedback from
an act - of teaching or curriculum - comes to be reflected upon by an
academic community, and then is acted on by that community - a department
or college - within its commitment to get smarter and better at what it
does. . . Assessment . . . is a community effort or nothing, driven by
a faculty's own commitment to reflect, judge, and improve."
(Marchese, 1997, pg. 93)
There has been considerable debate regarding the effective integration and
implementation of assessment strategies. To assist instructors in developing
effective assessments, the American Association for Higher Education has created
some general principles to promote high quality assessment of student learning
(Pausch & Popp, 1997):
- Assessment is most effective when it reflects an understanding of learning
as multidimensional, integrated, and revealed in performance over time.
- Assessment works best when the programs it seeks to improve have clear,
explicitly stated purposes.
- Assessment requires attention to outcomes but also and equally to the experiences
that lead to those outcomes.
- Assessment works best when it is ongoing, not episodic.
- Assessment fosters wider improvement when representatives from across the
educational community are involved.
- Assessment makes a difference when it begins with issues of use and illuminates
questions that people really care about.
- Assessment is most likely to lead to improvement when it is part of a larger
set of conditions that promote change.
- Through assessment educators meet responsibilities to students.
Due to the varied nature and goals of
assessment, it is vital that instructors invest adequate time and energy in
selecting, documenting and implementing their assessment strategies. As
highlighted below, assessments are utilized for a variety of purposes for the
student, instructor, and educational institution. This range of diversity and
the implications of assessment mandate that assessments be thoughtful,
effective, and well documented.
Motivate student performance
Provide diagnostic information concerning students' understanding
Assess effectiveness of curriculum programs
Provide feedback on understanding
Assess the effectiveness of specific instructional activities
Guides funding and resource decisions
Highlight strengths and weaknesses in conceptual knowledge
Promote instructor's accountability for student learning
Informs student placement decisions
Guides investment of study time
Feedback to improve instruction and assessment
Promote school district's accountability for student learning and instructor
Provides a basis of comparison with peer groups
Basis for communicating information about student performance to both
students and outside sources
There is little debate that the role
and importance of assessment has changed over recent years. With increased
concerns about the quality of education, demands for accountability, and
emphasis on student-centered approaches to teaching and learning, there is a
movement to radically alter the form and function of assessment. As highlighted
by the National Science Education Standards, the emphasis of assessment in the
classroom is shifting:
|Less Emphasis On
||More Emphasis On
Assessing what is easily measured
Assessing what is most highly valued
Assessing discrete knowledge
Assessing rich, well-structured knowledge
Assessing scientific knowledge
Assessing scientific understanding and reasoning
Assessing to learn what students do not know
Assessing to learn what students understand
End-of-term assessments by teachers
Students engaged in ongoing assessment of their work and that of others
Development of external assessments by measurement experts alone
Teachers involved in the development of external assessments
With this shift in mind, instructors need to adjust assessments to encourage
students to focus on relevant educational activities. It is no secret that students'
attention is geared directly toward the assessment measures and not the learning
objectives of a course. Thus, if assessments focus on low level cognitive skills,
students will devote their study time toward the shallow memorization of facts
and definitions. In contrast, if assessments require students to demonstrate
application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation, students will concentrate their
effort on acquiring these skills. This leaves the instructor with the task of
creating and implementing assessments that accurately reflect the target important
learning objectives. Angelo (1999) highlighted that "If learning really matters
most, then our assessment practices should help students develop the skills,
dispositions, and knowledge needed to:
- Engage actively - intellectually and emotionally - in their academic work.
- Set and maintain realistically high, personally meaningful expectations
- Provide, receive, and make use of regular, timely, specific feedback.
- Become explicitly aware of their values, beliefs, preconceptions, and prior
learning, and be willing to unlearn when necessary.
- Work in ways that recognize (and stretch) their present learning styles
or preferences and levels of development.
- Seek and find connections to and real-world applications of what they're
- Understand and value the criteria, standards, and methods by which they
are assessed and evaluated.
- Work regularly and productively with academic staff.
- Work regularly and productively with other students.
- Invest as much engaged time and high-quality effort as possible in academic
- Aiken, L. R. (2000). Psychological Testing and Assessment (10thEdition).
Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
- Angelo, T.A. (Summer, 1991). "Ten Easy Pieces: Assessing Higher Learning
in Four Dimensions." In T.A. Angelo (Ed.) Classroom Research: Early Lessons
from Success. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. New Directions for Teaching and
Learning, 46, 17-31.
- Chatterji, M. (2003). Designing and Using Tools for Educational Assessment.
Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
- Gronlund, N. (2003). Assessment of Student Achievement. Boston: Allyn and
- Huba, M. & Freed, J. (2000). Learner-Centered Assessments on College
Campuses: Shifting the Focus from Teaching to Learning. Boston: Allyn and
- Johnson, D.W. & Johnson, R.T. (2002). Meaningful Assessment: A Manageable
and Cooperative Process. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
- Marchese, T.J. (1991). "TQM reaches the academy." AAHE Bulletin, 44, 3-9.
- Marchese, T.J. (1997). "The new conversations about learning." In Assessing
Impact: Evidence and Action. Washington DC: American Association for Higher
- McKeachie, W.J. (1999). Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory
for College and University Teachers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
- Pausch, L.M. & Popp, M.P. (1997). "Assessment of Information Literacy:
Lessons from the Higher Education Assessment Movement." Retrieved February,
3, 2003 from http://www.ala.org/acrl/paperhtm/d30.html
- Popham, W.J. (2000). Modern Educational Measurement: Practical Guidelines
for Educational Leaders. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
- Trice, A. (2000). A Handbook of Classroom Assessment. New York: Addison
Wesley Longman, Inc.
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