Assessment is the “systematic collection, review, and use of information about educational programs undertaken to improve learning and development” as views Palomba & Banta (1). The process involves the use of various tools and methods that evaluate the current situation and aims at achieving better results in learning by improving on them or devising better techniques.
The process of assessment is aimed at accomplishing several things; providing the data or information required on students’ learning, making others and you participate in the analysis of and improvement of student learning, provision of evidence that students are learning the intended outcomes, guiding to improve educational and institutional improvements, evaluation of the impacts of changes implemented on the students’ learning, and documentation of learning and the instructor’s effort according to “How do you define assessment?” (2).
Assessment as a strategy has been applied in various fields apart from education institutions for various purposes. For instance, other areas that have witnessed the application of assessment techniques are public sectors using public funds such as federal funds. Assessment achieves many goals including ensuring accountability, demonstration that the expected goals have been achieved, production of evidence to convince “skeptical colleagues and critics”, measurement of change, as well as the identity of and chart out of corrections as the project evolves according to Mogk (3).
It is important to meditate or consider a few basic principles that will offer guidance into developing a good assessment plan. These include; a clear definition of the project goals and the outcomes that are expected, and this should be done at the beginning of the program; establishing the purpose of the assessment, and determining who to use the results and for what reasons; identification of the baseline data needed to document change; making a proper choice of the assessment techniques according to the information required for assessment; choice of either formative or summative or both according to the desired reasons for assessment; the purpose of the assessment should be to develop and manage the project and not an after-thought addition; ensure that colleagues are involved, and these should have good knowledge and expertise in assessment (3).
Different ways to assess students have been theorized. Two methods, in particular, have focused on various techniques to assess students. These methods include direct and indirect assessment techniques. Students are expected to represent, produce or demonstrate learning and this can be determined through the implementation of direct measures of assessment. Direct evidence of student learning can be evidenced through a variety of techniques, including oral exams, “standardized instruments, student portfolios, capstone projects, students performances, case studies, and embedded assessments” according to “Assessment Methods” (4).
Techniques implemented in the indirect method of measuring learning include “informal observation of student behavior, focus groups, alumni surveys, self-reports (i.e. NSSE), curriculum and syllabi analysis, exit interviews, and retention rates” (4). There has been a case in the use of both the indirect and direct measures of learning, for example by WASC where direct measures have been applied as a primary source of evidence and indirect measures as supporting evidence.
Another category of assessment methods is objective versus performance assessment. Objective assessment involves the provision of several alternatives to answers of structured tasks or choices of answers, in form of short answers, matching tests, multiple choices, true-false answer forms, matching tests, and completion. It is evident that the objective assessment method is useful to measure recall of factual knowledge and may be less useful in assessing higher-order thinking since they involve a structured response format. On the contrary, performance assessments can be useful in assessing higher-order thinking because they allow more than one correct answer and require the students to select, organize, create, perform, and/or present ideas while answering questions. The aforementioned method requires expert judgment to score responses and therefore is less reliable than objective assessments (4).
Embedded and Add-On assessment is another category of methods of assessment that can be applied in learning. The former refers to tasks that are embedded into specific courses and can perform the role of collecting specific information on program learning outcomes. They can be used to motivate students to show what they are learning, by tying them to the grading structure in the course.
They are advantageous because they are easy to administer and can be directly linked to the program’s curriculum and learning outcomes. Add-On assessment techniques involve the administration of assessment tests that are outside the course grading structure. These may for example be administered during designated assessment days on campus and may not boost the morale of the students to show what they are learning, since they are not included in the course grading structure. Some techniques such as incentives for performance may be applied to help students to become motivated to perform well.
Local assessments involve the internal assessment of students by faculty members. These can be directly linked to program learning outcomes and therefore are suitable for assessing standard-based questions. They are more reliable as they rely on a “standardized set of administration and scoring procedures” (4). They can also be used to provide information that can be used to compare students (undertaking a certain program) with others in “peer institutions or national/regional norms and standards” (4).
Two categories of assessment have been theorized, with the difference occurring at various points of assessment. Formative assessment depicts the assessment which is carried out at the beginning of, or during a program. It is, therefore, possible, through formative assessment, to achieve immediate evidence for student learning in a particular course or program. The productivity in all sections (for multiple sections of courses) can be monitored.
Summative assessment is a more comprehensive means of checking the level of learning and monitoring accountability at the end of the program. Summative assessment includes things such as talking of accreditation tests which are taken to provide assessment for the cumulative learning experience.
- Palomba, A. & Banta, W. Assessment Essentials: Planning, Implementing, and Improving Assessment in Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; 1999, p. 4.
- How do you define assessment?. 2010. Web.
- Mogk, D.Tips on assessment, evaluation and dissemination. SERC. 2008.
- Assessment methods. . Web.