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Assessment Techniques

The following assessment techniques are largely based on materials from Mary Allen, former Director of the California State University Institute for Teaching and Learning and a Professor Emerita of Psychology from California State University, Bakersfield.  Dr. Allen has conducted a series of workshop on assessment at the national and state campuses of the college.  

Copies of Dr. Allen’s book Allen, M. J. (2004). Assessing Academic Programs in Higher Education. Bolton, MA: Anker [www.ankerpub.com] is available at all campuses.  

Generally no one single type of assessment provides complete information needed to gauge student learning and mastery of learning outcomes.  A combination of techniques is generally preferred.  As can be seen below, each assessment technique has pros and cons – no assessment technique will provide perfect information on student learning.  

In all cases, tracking and documentation of information in real time is vital to making assessment effective and efficient.  

There are two basic types of assessing student learning – direct and indirect.

Two Basic Ways to Assess Student Learning:


Direct – The assessment is based on an analysis of student behaviors or products in which they demonstrate how well they have mastered learning outcomes.


Indirect – The assessment is based on an analysis of reported perceptions about student mastery of learning outcomes. The perceptions may be self-reports by students, or they may be made by others, such as alumni, fieldwork supervisors, employers, or faculty.

While assessment techniques vary widely, there are a set of properties that indicate properties of good assessment techniques.  

Properties of Good Assessment Techniques

Valid—directly reflects the learning outcome being assessed

Reliable—including inter-rater reliability when subjective judgments are made

Actionable—results point reviewers toward challenges that can be approached

Efficient and cost-effective in time and money

Engaging to students and other respondents—so they’ll demonstrate the extent of their learning

Interesting to faculty and other stakeholders—they care about results and are willing to act on them

Triangulation—multiple lines of evidence point to the same conclusion

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