Assessment Resources

Why assess?

Why Are We Assessing?  Rethinking Assessment’s Purpose by Linda Suskie, former Vice President of Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Suskie presents three important purposes of assessment:

  • To ensure that students get the best possible education, consonant with the institution’s mission
  • To ensure that learning is of appropriate scope, depth, and rigor – are we satisfied with what students are learning?
  • To use assessment to inform decisions about allocation of resources

What constitutes good assessment?

Nine Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning  from The American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) Assessment Forum

According to Middle States Commission on Higher Education (see pages 64-65 in Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education for elaboration), effective assessment processes are:

  • useful
  • cost-effective
  • reasonably accurate and truthful
  • carefully planned
  • organized, systematic, and sustained

The Hamilton Plan for Assessment of Liberal Arts by Dan Chambliss, Christian A. Johnson Professor of Sociology, Hamilton College

Chambliss presents reasons many faculty and administrators do not like the idea of assessment and then argues for three elements of good assessment:

  • Results should be useful
  • Research should be fundamentally sound social science
  • Assessment should be true to the mission of liberal arts

The paper concludes with a description of the Mellon Assessment Project at Hamilton and lessons learned about assessment.

Assessment Methods and Examples

The Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) launched its Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative, which “champions the importance of a twenty-first-century liberal education—for individual students and for a nation dependent on economic creativity and democratic vitality,” in 2005. One facet of this initiative involved development, by teams of faculty across the country, of 16 rubrics to assess students’ work on critical dimensions of liberal learning. These VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education) rubrics can be used or adapted to assess student work within various contexts at Barnard. Rubrics for the following dimensions are available here:

Inquiry and Analysis
Critical Thinking
Creative Thinking
Written Communication
Oral Communication
Quantitative Literacy
Information Literacy
Problem Solving
Civic Knowledge and Engagement – Local and Global
Intercultural Knowledge and Competence
Ethical Reasoning and Action
Global Learning
Foundations and Skills for Lifelong Learning
Integrative Learning

Examples of Evidence of Student Learning

A one-page inventory of assessment methods that provide direct and indirect evidence of student learning, and evidence of learning processes (i.e., why students are or are not learning)

Methods of Measuring Learning Outcomes and Value Added

From the MIT Teaching and Learning Laboratory (TLL), a matrix and explanatory text describing types of direct and indirect assessment.

Assessment Terminology Glossary (from Teagle Tri-College Assessment Project)

Specific Formative Evaluations

Formative assessment is assessment for learning, to help students and instructors gauge the degree of understanding as the course progresses. (Note that there is substantial overlap among these resources, but all are short.)

The Mud Card’ – brief in-class exercise asking for the ‘muddiest’ point of the class (pdf)

Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning Formative Evaluation examples

Classroom Assessment Techniques  adapted from book of the same title by K. Patricia Cross and Thomas A. Angelo, 1993, from the Georgetown Assessment web site

Mid-Course Evaluation – Sample Questions – informal, anonymous, in-class evaluation, midway through the course, to gauge understanding of the material

Assessment Web Sites

The following web sites offer good assessment resources:

Swarthmore College Assessment web page, particularly the Resources section

Tri-College Teagle Assessment Project (Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore), particularly:

Measures page – specific rubrics, pre- and post- tests, etc., developed during the Teagle Project

MIT Teaching and Learning Lab (TLL) Assessment and Evaluation page, particularly:

Grading Rubrics

Strategic Teaching page

Georgetown University’s Course-Level Assessment page

Identifying Student Learning Goals

Aligning Goals with Your Course

Gathering Evidence of Learning

Interpreting Evidence of Learning

Using Evidence to Improve Learning

Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence, particularly:

Assessing Student Learning – various strategies and techniques for assessing student learning

Course-Level Assessment Guide – combination of assessment and pedagogical techniques