Assessment of Learning - Overview

What is “Assessment” in Higher Education?
Assessment in higher education is usually described as “The 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 our institutional system, 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 (Thomas A. Angelo, AAHE Bulletin, November 1995, p.7).

The word "assessment" is used in a variety of contexts within higher education (e.g., “institutional assessment”, “curricular and program assessment”, “course and learner-centered assessment"). In the context of “assessment of student learning” there are (essentially) two types of assessment — program assessment, and assessment of student learning outcomes.

Program assessment (which includes “Academic Program Review”, [assessment of progress at the departmental level]) is the process by which we gather data on student learning and review these data in aggregate to answer the question, “Are our students learning what we expect them to learn?” The focus of assessment in this regard is not the individual student but the program as a whole. Issues pertaining to, for example, enrollment, retention, curriculum, graduation, placement, and satisfaction are part of program assessment. It focuses on what the faculty and program curriculum will provide.

Assessment of student learning outcomes, on the other hand, encompasses a wide range of student attributes and abilities, both cognitive and affective, which are a measure of how their college experiences have supported their development as individuals. Cognitive outcomes include demonstrable acquisition of specific knowledge and skills, as in a major (what do students know that they didn't know before, and what can they do that they couldn't do before?). Affective outcomes relate to questions such: how has their college experience shaped students' values, goals, attitudes, self-concepts, worldviews, and behaviors? How has it enhanced their value to themselves, their families, and their communities?

“Assessment” in this guide is considered as the systematic collection and analysis of information to improve student lifelong learning, as noted by Huba and Freed:

"Assessment is the process of gathering and discussing information from multiple and diverse sources in order to develop a deep understanding of what students know, understand, and can do with their knowledge as a result of their educational experiences; the process culminates when assessment results are used to improve subsequent learning."

See: Huba, M. E. and Freed, J. E. (2000). Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses -- Shifting the Focus from Teaching to Learning. Boston, Allyn and Bacon.

Event description

We address a variety of issues related to successful student and program assessment including what may be assessed and how to assess. We conclude by leading a discussion on the development of a supportive classroom environment, the encouragement of active and intentional learning, and the importance of reflecting on one's teaching.

Event last offered

"Assessment Tools for Your Course" - Professor Danielle Mihram, September 13, 2007, 1-3 PM, Leavey Auditorium



Internet Resources


Additional Suggested Readings

Megasite on Assessment: Internet Resources for Higher Education Outcomes Assessment, NC State. Includes

See also:

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