Choosing Appropriate Assessment Methods

After the determination of SLOs, perhaps the second most important step of the assessment process is choosing the appropriate methods and tools of assessing student learning.  Potential methods take a wide variety of forms.  One of the most important distinctions is that between direct versus indirect assessment methods.

In the case of the assessment of student learning, primary emphasis is usually placed on direct methods, such as

  • Examinations
  • Written assignments
  • Oral presentations and performances
  • Portfolios
  • Capstone projects
  • Theses and dissertations

Nevertheless, indirect methods can provide a useful supplement and check on the findings from direct measures.  They include

  • Surveys of students and alumni
  • Exit interviews with graduating students
  • Data on placement and other measures of post-graduation performance

Is It Okay to Use Grades?

A second important distinction is that between assessment and grading.  As a general rule, we do not use student grades for assessment.  Grades may

  • leave unclear the expectations for student learning
  • collapse information about multiple learning outcomes
  • incorporate other aspects of student performance, such as attendance and participation
  • be less likely to tell where exactly improvement is needed

Instead of grades, we encourage the use of rubrics for the evaluation of student work for assessment.