Determine Your Purpose for Assessment

Decorative: The word "Assessment" surrounded by words and icons for the following: "Progress, Measure, Analysis, Evaluation, Plan, Audit, Result, Goal"


"Determining Your Purpose for Assessing Student Learning" (doc, post) provides an overview of assessment issues to help instructors clarify the purpose, function, and variety of assessment -- and so choose optimal forms of assessment for their specific purposes.

Topics covered include the following, each elaborated more fully in the text:

1. "Defining Assessment"

  • "[A]ppraisal of the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs that students have acquired, most often as the result of learning in their courses"
  • "[T]he actions undertaken by teachers and by students to document student learning in a given course"
  • Includes a useful table: "Differences between Grades and Assessment"

2. "How Learning Assessment is Different from Grading"

  • "[T]he grades we give are symbols of relative achievement in a class section."
  • "[A]ssessment ... determine[s] how effective a course’s assignments and tests are in fostering specific learning goals in order to understand and improve student learning." 

3. "Types of Learning Assessment"

"[T]hree types of assessment [are] particularly useful as concepts for understanding Learning Assessment Techniques (LATs)":

  • "Educative assessment" - "a process in which assessment is designed to help improve student performance"
  • "Embedded assessment" - "occurs within the class as an assignment linked to learning outcomes, thus achieving both grading and assessment purposes"
  • "Authentic assessment" - "simulates a real-world experience by evaluating ability to apply knowledge or perform tasks under conditions that approximate those found outside of the classroom. "

4. "Assessing Students to Determine for Ourselves How Well Students Are Learning"

Reasons for assessment (each elaborated in the text):

  • "[T]o determine for ourselves whether students are learning"
  • "To discover the current status of student knowledge and understanding"
  • "To solve a problem in our teaching"
  • "To determine whether we need to change direction in our teaching"
  • "To find out how students are experiencing learning in our classrooms"

5. "Assessing to Give Learners Feedback on Their Progress"

  • "To learn efficiently and effectively, learners need to know what they are supposed to learn as well as know what they need to be able to do to demonstrate that they have learned."
  • "They also need to receive rich, timely, individual relevant feedback throughout their learning efforts so that they can make necessary adjustments before it is too late."

6. "Assessing to Improve Our Profession through the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)"

  • "Those of us who pursue SoTL work can use assessment to provide the kind of evidence required to improve our profession through our individual contributions to the scholarship of teaching and learning."

7. "Assessing to Provide Information to Institutional and External Stakeholders on How Well Students Are Learning" (each point elaborated in the text)

  • "As part of our professional dossiers"
  •  "For program reviews, whether internal or external"

8. Crafting the Assessment Question

"What is the question you are asking about student learning? Here are some examples of the kinds of questions you might consider" (each point elaborated in the text):

  • "To what extent has the learning been successful?"
  • "Has there been cognitive or affective change in students over time?"
  • "How do these results compare with others?"
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