Assessment Process

When you reflect on your initiative, you may ask “Was it successful?” You can answer the question by using a modified Assessment Loop Model (see figure). In this model, start with your end goal in mind. Then, select the most appropriate ways to collect and interpret evidence to help you accomplish your goal.

The assessment process: 1. Define learning outcomes, 2. Gather evidence, 3. Interpret findings, 4. Decide and act
The Assessment Loop Model is modified from Leskes, A., & Wright, B. D. (2005). The Art & Science of Assessing General Education Outcomes: A practical guide. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Assessment Process Step-by-step

Step 1: Set goals, identify issues, and ask questions

Choose a goal based on a decision you need to make. Write your goal or issue as a question which you will answer in steps 2 through 4. Ask yourself the following questions as you choose a target:

  • What is important to me?
  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • What problems or pain points am I trying to resolve?
  • What am I hoping would happen due to my intervention?
  • Did students achieve the desired learning outcomes?

Step 2: Gather evidence

Choose qualitative or quantitative methods to collect evidence that illustrates how successfully you achieved your goals. Each approach has strengths and weakness, so you need to select ones that best fit your situation. (See Evidence-Gathering Options for suggestions) The strongest evidence will answer the question as directly as possible. Multiple indirect indicators may also provide useful direction when lacking direct evidence.

Describe your evidence collection approaches and explain why you feel these methods are most appropriate for providing useful information which will address the concern in step 1.

(Note: You can run into trouble when the assessment you use is not actually representing the real “learning” happening inside the brain but you don’t realize this fact. For example, a person with a motor disability may not score well on a test using bubble-sheets for the answers due to inability to fill the circles correctly, not because the individual  didn’t know the answers. In this case, the assessment is testing the physical ability, not the mental skills we hoped it was testing.)

Step 3: Interpret findings

Choose appropriate data-analysis approaches for the evidence collected in step 2. Summarize the findings and draw conclusions based on the evidence.

Step 4: Decide and act

Make a decision about your goal based on the conclusions in step 3. Take appropriate action based on your decisions. Consider asking yourself:

  • Am I satisfied with the outcome?
  • If so, what do I continue doing in the future?
  • If not, what steps might I take to more closely meet my target?

What does this Process look like?

The steps in the process will be similar across areas. The specific questions examined, teaching approaches used, and assessments considered may differ based on the unique features of the field.

Step 1: Set goals, ask questions

  • Department A: Did students achieve mastery of the X technique?
  • Department B: Are students socially responsible?

Step 2: Gather evidence

  • Department A: We will have an expert in X technique observe the students perform the technique and rate the performance level using a rubric, verbal description and holistic score. We chose this approach because observing the student’s performance is the most direct measure we considered.
  • Department B: We defined social responsibility as Z, which we inferred from students’ respectful interactions with a variety of people and from their descriptions of what social responsibility means to them. Thus, we used 360 degree surveys to gather the opinions of peers, supervisors, and colleagues who had observed the student interacting with others in various contexts. We also asked the students to write a short essay on what social responsibility means and how they practice it.

Step 3: Interpret findings

  • Department A: We concluded that some of our students are not achieving the learning outcome to the desired degree. The expert’s rubrics showed most students within the “developing” level and we had expected students to be at the “mastering” level by this point. The expert’s descriptive summaries suggest that the major weakness seems to be in the X & Y parts of the technique.
  • Department B: We concluded that our students are socially responsible. According to the 360 degree surveys, the students interacted respectfully with each person they met. Students’ essays indicated that they felt social responsibility was related to making sure that everyone is included. These perceptions and actions are consistent with our definitions of social responsibility.

Step 4: Decide and act

  • Department A: We are not satisfied with the current student performance level. To help more students achieve the “Mastery” level, we plan to do [A] to help students practice the X & Y components and we will do [B] within our classrooms. After implementing these changes, we will re-assess to see if the student performance has improved.
  • Department B: Since our students are adequately demonstrating the learning outcome related to social responsibility, we feel the best course of action is to continue our current approach. We will periodically assess to make sure we’re still on target.