At the end of the course, you might ask, “What’s one thing I wish my students could do better?” That question helps to focus the process of examining your assessment data, noting what students mastered and what they did not, and thinking about how to revise the course for the next time it’s taught. Assessment, then, is more forward-looking than the usual course evaluation.
With the standard course evaluations, a professor may rate fine. Students appreciated the course, liked the professor, thought the lectures and readings were interesting, and accepted the assignments as reasonable and fair. A good evaluation may be filed as the completion of the course and a successful experience.
With the assessment process, by contrast, the information collected about student learning must be used to improve student learning in future courses. Some accrediting bodies refer to this as the “feedback loop” or “closing the circle.” As you review your assessment data, you might consider: (Wergin, 2003)
- What does the evaluation or assessment information tell you about what and how well students are learning?
- In what areas do students have difficulty in your course?
- Can you address prior knowledge or content differently?
- What additional information is needed?
- How will you use the information to improve student learning?
The sidebar worksheet provides a means to plot these thoughts.
The assumption for everyone on campus is that we already do a good job but that we can always improve. As departments, colleges, and the university continue to report about assessment work on campus, faculty will also be reporting how they assessed and used assessment to improve a course. Each semester and each year, there are changes to adapt to and new kinds of students to teach. Assessment enables us to adapt on the basis of systematically-collected and thoughtfully-reviewed evidence so that our courses remain fresh and responsive to changes in our students, our degree programs, and our disciplines.
Wergin, J.F. (2003). Departments that Work. Bolton MA: Anker Publishing Co.