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Assessing Outcomes

Why Assess SLOs?

Setting goals for courses, programs, and student services is an integral part of teaching and working in academic institutions. Faculty and staff providing student services assess their services, and solicit feedback from students to make improvements. Even those instructors who teach ungraded noncredit classes assess student learning.

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 (Thomas A. Angelo, AAHE Bulletin, November 1995, p. 7).

Faculty make the decisions that will determine how useful the assessment process will be in improving teaching and learning. In other words, faculty members decide how they will assess the SLOs.

Assessment Tools

Any tool that measures the degree to which students have met a learning outcome qualifies as assessment.

Assessment Tools

  • skills performances or demonstrations
  • portfolios
  • productions (essay, oral presentation, visual artifact, speech)
  • surveys, quizzes, and tests

Most outcomes can be measured in a variety of ways. 

Choosing the Best Assessment Tool

What is the outcome asking a student to do?

  • Identify a fact?
  • Perform a skill?
  • Analyze a complex phenomenon?
  • Solve a problem?
  • Explain a concept?
  • Create a learning product?
  • Prepare a performance?
  • Apply skills or knowledge to real-world situations?
  • Evaluate options and select appropriate resources or tools?
  • Complete a task?

What types of assignments or activities will allow students to demonstrate the SLO?

Assessment Types:

  • Skills Demonstration -- A project or demonstration that will allow students to demonstrate the skill or process in the SLO and that is evaluated through a faculty-developed rubric. Useful for:
    • Learning that results in a tangible product 
    • Learning that results in the ability to correctly perform a process or procedure 
  • Essays -- A writing prompt that addresses the learning in the SLO and that is evaluated by a rubric. Useful for:
    • Identification of content-area knowledge 
    • Application of content-area knowledge 
    • Ability to explain concepts 
    • Ability to evaluate and select 
    • Analysis of complex phenomena
    • Writing skills
  • Performances -- A student demonstration or performance that addresses the learning in the SLO and that is evaluated by a rubric. Useful for:
    • Application of content-area knowledge
    • Performing arts skills
  • Portfolios -- A collection of student work that addresses the learning in the SLO and is evaluated by a rubric. Useful for: 
    • Creation of a body of work
    • Visual or media arts skills
    • Writing skills
  • Presentations -- A presentation prompt that addresses the learning in the SLO and is evaluated by a rubric. Useful for: 
    • Identification of content-area knowledge 
    • Application of content-area knowledge
    • Ability to explain concepts
    • Ability to evaluate and select
    • Analysis of complex phenomena
    • Oral communication skills
  • Objective Tests -- A test that addresses the learning in the SLO and is evaluated agains an answer key with a particular score. Useful for:
    • Identification of content-area knowledge
    • Application of content-area knowledge
    • Ability to evaluate and select
    • Mathematical skills
  • Surveys -- A ist of questions that asks students to reflect on their satisfaction and/or learning. Also requires a process for survey administration.
    • Student satisfaction
    • Student self-assessment of SLO mastery

What criteria will you be used to measure success or failure to meet the SLO?

  • Rubrics (see the next SLO Handbook Chapter)
  • Raw Score (what percentage of the points possible did the student earn?)

 

The Difference between Assessing and Grading

It is also important to differentiate between SLO assessment and grading. While the skills needed to attain the student learning outcome(s) for a course can and should inform the grade a student receives in a course, there are often more factors involved in a student’s grade than skill achievement. Often, missing or inconsistent work over the course of a term can significantly impact a student’s grade, even if he or she has mastered the SLO(s) for a course.

A student’s final grade in a course should not be the SLO assessment measure. Instead, an assignment in the course that effectively measures the achievement of the specific SLO should be the assessment tool. Rather than using a student’s grade on that assignment as the measure of success, criteria should be developed (either through a rubric or through setting a raw score as the threshold) for successfully meeting the SLO.

In order to help organize the assessment process, it is helpful to have a written plan (called an assessment plan) for how and when each SLO will be assessed. When developing an assessment plan, it is best to involve as many relevant faculty as possible, including full-time and part-time faculty.