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Listed below are some fundamental steps on how to do assessment

  1. Identify the assignments, experiences, activities, etc. that promote the achievement of the learning outcome.
    1. Identify the components of successful achievement of the learning outcome.
    2. Identify the evaluative criteria for each component.
  2. Identify and describe multiple methodologies and measures.
  3. Create and implement assessment measures.
  4. Collect, analyze, and interpret data.
  5. Present data to stakeholders for discussion.
  6. Identify changes needed for improvement.
  7. Act on results; maintain feedback loops.

Helpful Resources

Faculty/Staff Professional Development at Northeast State

Nine Principles Of Good Practice For Assessing Student Learning

The American Association of Higher Education has devised nine principles of good practice for assessing student learning. These can also be helpful when thinking about how to avoid plagiarism and cheating in online courses.

The principles are:

  1. The assessment of student learning begins with educational values. Assessment is not an end in itself but a vehicle for educational improvement. Its effective practice, then, begins with and enacts a vision of the kinds of learning we most value for students and strive to help them achieve. Educational values should drive not only what we choose to assess but also how we do so. Where questions about educational mission and values are skipped over, assessment threatens to be an exercise in measuring what’s easy, rather than a process of improving what we really care about.
  2. Assessment is most effective when it reflects an understanding of learning as multidimensional, integrated, and revealed in performance over time. Learning is a complex process. It entails not only what students know but what they can do with what they know; it involves not only knowledge and abilities but values, attitudes, and habits of mind that affect both academic success and performance beyond the classroom. Assessment should reflect these understandings by employing a diverse array of methods, including those that call for actual performance, using them over time so as to reveal change, growth, and increasing degrees of integration. Such an approach aims for a more complete and accurate picture of learning, and therefore firmer bases for improving our students’ educational experience.
  3. Assessment works best when the programs it seeks to improve have clear, explicitly stated purposes. Assessment is a goal-oriented process. It entails comparing educational performance with educational purposes and expectations—those derived from the institution’s mission, from faculty intentions in program and course design, and from knowledge of students’ own goals. Where program purposes lack specificity or agreement, assessment as a process pushes a campus toward clarity about where to aim and what standards to apply; assessment also prompts attention to where and how program goals will be taught and learned. Clear, shared, implementable goals are the cornerstone for assessment that is focused and useful.
  4. Assessment requires attention to outcomes but also and equally to the experiences that lead to those outcomes. Information about outcomes is of high importance; where students “end up” matters greatly. But to improve outcomes, we need to know about student experience along the way—about the curricula, teaching, and kind of student effort that lead to particular outcomes. Assessment can help us understand which students learn best under what conditions; with such knowledge comes the capacity to improve the whole of their learning.
  5. Assessment works best when it is ongoing not episodic. Assessment is a process whose power is cumulative. Though isolated, “one-shot” assessment can be better than none, improvement is best fostered when assessment entails a linked series of activities undertaken over time. This may mean tracking the process of individual students, or of cohorts of students; it may mean collecting the same examples of student performance or using the same instrument semester after semester. The point is to monitor progress toward intended goals in a spirit of continous improvement. Along the way, the assessment process itself should be evaluated and refined in light of emerging insights.
  6. Assessment fosters wider improvement when representatives from across the educational community are involved. Student learning is a campus-wide responsibility, and assessment is a way of enacting that responsibility. Thus, while assessment efforts may start small, the aim over time is to involve people from across the educational community. Faculty play an especially important role, but assessment’s questions can’t be fully addressed without participation by student-affairs educators, librarians, administrators, and students. Assessment may also involve individuals from beyond the campus (alumni/ae, trustees, employers) whose experience can enrich the sense of appropriate aims and standards for learning. Thus understood, assessment is not a task for small groups of experts but a collaborative activity; its aim is wider, better-informed attention to student learning by all parties with a stake in its improvement.
  7. Assessment makes a difference when it begins with issues of use and illuminates questions that people really care about. Assessment recognizes the value of information in the process of improvement. But to be useful, information must be connected to issues or questions that people really care about. This implies assessment approaches that produce evidence that relevant parties will find credible, suggestive, and applicable to decisions that need to be made. It means thinking in advance about how the information will be used, and by whom. The point of assessment is not to gather data and return “results”; it is a process that starts with the questions of decision-makers, that involves them in the gathering and interpreting of data, and that informs and helps guide continous improvement.
  8. Assessment is most likely to lead to improvement when it is part of a larger set of conditions that promote change. Assessment alone changes little. Its greatest contribution comes on campuses where the quality of teaching and learning is visibly valued and worked at. On such campuses, the push to improve educational performance is a visible and primary goal of leadership; improving the quality of undergraduate education is central to the institution’s planning, budgeting, and personnel decisions. On such campuses, information about learning outcomes is seen as an integral part of decision making, and avidly sought.
  9. Through assessment, educators meet responsibilities to students and to the public. There is a compelling public stake in education. As educators, we have a responsibility to the publics that support or depend on us to provide information about the ways in which our students meet goals and expectations. But that responsibility goes beyond the reporting of such information; our deeper obligation—to ourselves, our students, and society—is to improve. Those to whom educators are accountable have a corresponding obligation to support such attempts at improvement.

Authors: Alexander W. Astin; Trudy W. Banta; K. Patricia Cross; Elaine El-Khawas; Peter T. Ewell; Pat Hutchings; Theodore J. Marchese; Kay M. McClenney; Marcia Mentkowski; Margaret A. Miller; E. Thomas Moran; Barbara D. Wright

These principles were developed under the auspices of the AAHE Assessment Forum with support from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education with additional support for publication and dissemination from the Exxon Education Foundation. Copies may be made without restriction.

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives

A teacher’s task is to try to continually move students to higher levels of human learning and development. Planning for this development occurs through content and activities, moving students through advancing levels once the basic steps are mastered. These various levels are defined in Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomies or classification systems of educational objectives: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor.

Cognitive objectives emphasize memory and reasoning, affective objectives emphasize emotional, and psychomotor objectives emphasize physical ability. The major categories in each domain are found in the following chart that illustrates the hierarchy of levels:

Cognitive Domain
Thinking Skills

Affective Domain
Attitudes, feelings, and values

Psychomotor Domain
Manipulative and motor skills

Remembering terms, facts, and details without necessarily understanding the concept

Being aware of something in the environment. Beginning to have favorable feelings toward it

Reflex movements
Involuntary response to stimulus (blinking)

Summarizing and describing main ideas in own words without necessarily relating it to anything

Showing belief in the values and becomes committed or involved in it

Basic movements
Combination of reflex movements (walking)

Applying or transferring learning to own life or other situations

Showing definite commitment or involvement

Perceptual abilities
Translation of stimuli received through the senses into appropriate movements (jumping rope)

Analyzing, breaking material into parts, describe patterns and relationships

Integrating a new value into one's general values

Physical abilities
Basic movements prerequisite to higher skills (weight lifting)

Creating something new by combining ideas

Internalizing of values
Acting consistently with the new value. Becomes a way of life

Skilled movements
Complex movements embodying efficiency (dance)

Judging, expressing own opinion, based on criteria

Nondiscursive communication
Ability to communicate through body movement (facial expressions, gestures)

Bloom (1956)

Krathwohl, Bloom, & Masia (1964)

Harrow (1977)

Teachers are able to use Bloom’s taxonomy of Cognitive Objectives to create stimulating classroom discussions at any grade level and with any topic. Asking different types of questions from the lower level (knowledge and comprehension) questions to the higher level (application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation) questions stimulates the thinking processes. Higher level questions require students to manipulate and use information in some manner.

Major categories in the Cognitive Domain of Bloom's Taxonomy and the verbs used for stating specific behavioral learning outcomes are found in the following chart. Cognitive objectives specify what the learner will be able to do intellectually as a result of instruction. 

Inquiries, comments, or request for information can be sent to: Dr. Becky Thomas Assistant Vice President for Research, Analytics, and Planning P.O. Box 246 Blountville, TN 37617-0246 Tel: 423.354.5375

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Northeast State Community College, a Tennessee Board of Regents institution, is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.