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Assessment Alignment with Outcomes

Student learning outcomes articulate what a student should know or can do after completing a course or program. The assessment of student learning outcomes provides information that puts student learning at the forefront of academic planning processes.  An assessment can be graded or ungraded and can take a few minutes (eg. one-minute paper) or it can take weeks (eg. group project). It can ask students to demonstrate understanding or skills acquisition through writing, the creation of a product or presentation, or the ability to successfully accomplish some task. It can ask students to demonstrate their understanding as individuals or as members of a group.

Linking a lesson objective or a course outcome to an assessment can be tricky. If your goal is for students to understand a concept, do you mean that they should be able to recall facts? Summarize information? Apply information or predict consequences? Analyze or compare phenomena? Generate models? Evaluate and justify arguments? Perhaps you want your students to be able to demonstrate their understanding by doing a combination of these things. You should ask yourself whether or not your assessments are related to the goals of the lesson or the course, e.g., are the assessments measuring whether students have met the learning goals?

You might think of assessment as a multi-step process in which you:

  1. Formulate a clear and succinct learning goal (or goals) for your students.
  2. Articulate those learning goals to your students.
  3. Decide what your students should be able to do if they have met those learning goals.
  4. Develop an assessment instrument (a test, essay, project, etc.) and a scoring rubric.
  5. Administer the assessment instrument to your students.
  6. Evaluate your students’ performance on the assessment instrument.
  7. Assess your students’ mastery of the learning goals given their performance on the assessment instrument.
  8. Reflect on why students did or did not master the learning goals, and develop strategies to help them be as or more successful in the future.

Assessments can be powerful contexts for student learning. They can use assessment to:

  • identify understanding of a specific topic
  • think about whether their own learning strategies are successful
  • evaluate what they know or have learned in your class or in previous courses
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