Outcomes assessment is any systematic inquiry whose goal is to document learning or improve the teaching/learning process. The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) defines assessment simply as any method “that an institution employs to gather evidence and evaluate quality.” It can be understood more precisely as a three-step process of:
- Defining what students should be able to do, think, or know at the end of a unit of instruction (defining, that is, the student learning outcomes)
- Determining whether, and to what extent, students can do, think, or know it.
- Using this information to make improvements in teaching and learning.
If this sounds partly recognizable, that’s because all good teachers instinctively do outcomes assessment all the time at the course level. Whenever we give a test or assign an essay, look at the responses to see where students have done well or not so well, and reconsider our approach to teaching in light of that information, we’re doing a form of assessment. Outcomes assessment simply makes that process more systematic, and often directs our attention away from individual classrooms to student performance within programs and the institution as a whole.
Course-based Assessment: Guidelines & Models
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Frequently Asked Questions:
Should I continue to do student learning gain surveys?
Only if you also do direct assessment. Learning gains surveys alone are not enough to demonstrate we’re engaged in authentic assessment. But used in conjunction with direct assessment, they may be valuable.
What’s the difference between indirect and direct assessment?
Direct assessment focuses on work students actually do that demonstrates their learning. Indirect assessment uses proxies of student learning—like student self-reports, focus groups, alumni or employer surveys—to assess whether students have achieved course or program competencies.
What role does the Dean of Student Success have in assessment at this point?
The Dean of Student Success is still integrally involved in assessment processes at Norco; however, the Student Success office is now supporting the efforts of a more faculty-driven approach to assessment.
What are some examples of direct assessment we can use to assess our courses?
You can embed common questions—mapped to SLOs—tests, quizzes, or class exercises; develop a common final exam; use portfolios or sample performance-based activities (essays, presentations, lab experiments, musical performances, etc) and evaluate them against a common rubric.
Do I have to do course, program, and GE assessment all at the same time?
No. If you are involved in program and/or GE assessment, you will not be required to participate in course-level assessment at the same time.
What’s the difference between assessing sections and assessing courses?
Assessing sections is what most of us have been doing. Instructors of record assess their own sections in isolation from each other. Course-based assessment involves collaboration between colleagues teaching the same course. Everyone doesn’t have to do the same thing, but it’s more useful when a joint effort is made and the results can be aggregated.
After we complete our direct assessment project, whom do we see for help with analyzing and interpreting the data?
Greg Aycock, Outcomes Assessment Specialist.
Phone: (951) 739-7802
Do I still need to do an assessment every semester?
Not exactly. You should always be in some stage of the assessment cycle, but you might not always be completing and reporting on an assessment project each semester.
What are the stages of the assessment cycle?
Stage 1: developing an assessment plan for a course or program;
Stage 2: conducting the assessment and generating data;
Stage 3: analyzing the data and implementing changes to improve the course;
Stage 4: assessing improvements in the course.
Under what sort of time constraints are we operating?
ACCJC expects all California community colleges to be at “proficiency” level in assessing student learning by fall, 2012. That means we will need to have completed assessment cycles for all of our courses and programs, including general education, by then.