This website provides basic information, tools, ideas, and examples to assist faculty to incorporate assessment into the design of new courses and the revision of ongoing courses. The goal is to help faculty as they make assessment an integral element of course planning.
Faculty have been assessing how well their courses work for years, though we have not always called it assessment. Faculty have often reflected at semester’s end on how effectively we used class and lab sessions and how satisfied we were that our syllabi, assignments, and classroom practices facilitated student learning. In the current intentional assessment scheme, we call this “closing the loop” of the Assessment Cycle by analyzing student performance and then making revisions in course design to improve learning, either during a semester or for the next course session. For each of us, as teachers, assessment can provide techniques to think more consciously and intentionally about why we teach, what we teach, how we teach, and how we can do this work more effectively and with greater satisfaction.
The new nationwide interest in assessment does reflect a change in emphasis, however. Putting student learning outcomes at the core of assessment moves us from a teacher-centered to a student-centered approach. The new orientation entails a shift from reviewing “inputs” to education, primarily faculty reputation, curriculum, and syllabus content to evaluating “outputs” of education, mainly student competencies at the end of a course, general education curriculum, or degree program. Assessment measures not what faculty teach, but what students learn. There are numerous ongoing arguments about how to determine what students have learned and complicated debates about quantitative and qualitative methodologies. These debates are less important than the new attention faculty are giving to what students take away from their classrooms, course assignments, and research experiences.
As faculty undertake more intentional and systematic course design, we urge you to keep in mind that you cannot do it all at once. Principles to keep in mind are: “start small, start by focusing on important goals, start with the easier assignments, focus on assessment tools and strategies that yield the greatest dividends for the time and resources invested.” We hope we can help you locate resources and helpful ideas as you begin or improve your course assessment. We welcome feedback on the site and suggestions for additions.
Click the 4-part “Assessment Cycle: Incorporating Assessment into Courses” Link to Assessment Cycle to get started.
Linda Suskie, Assessing Student Learning. A common sense guide.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009, p.87.