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Section 6.1: Student Learning Assessment and Course Evaluation Strategies

Meaningful assessment is not bean-counting or teaching to the test! It must be done thoughtfully and systematically. It should be faculty driven so that the information gathered reflects the goals and values of particular disciplines, helps instructors refine their teaching practices and grow as educators, and helps departments and programs refine their curriculum to prepare students for an evolving workplace (Carnegie Melon, 2011, “Assessment – Enhancing Education”).

One of the most critical components in an “education system is student assessment” (Born, 2003, p. 166). Appropriate assessment strategies can have far reaching impacts on student learning and faculty development. The aim of assessment is to measure student performance, as well as provide a context for improving the course or broader academic program.

Additionally, appropriate and timely assessments have been positively correlated to student motivation and retention. Perrin et al. (as cited by Born, 1992) found “clearly stated learning outcomes and assessment activities enhance student learning and motivate students to commit to their education” (p. 166).

It is important to remember established learning objectives and strategies must be in alignment with the assessment activities (Morgan & O’Reilly as cited by Palloff & Pratt, 2006):

Not only should the assessments and assessment criteria be clear and easy to understand, they should align with the instructional approaches used in the course, the context in which the course occurs, and the competencies to be assessed. In addition, assessments should be formative – meaning that they occur throughout the course and inform practice – and summative – meaning that they occur at the end of the course and assess cumulative learning from the course (p.1).

Traditional assessment and evaluation “measures the attainment of learning objectives through exams, papers, and projects” (O’Neil et al., p.138). Although traditional forms of assessment may accomplish certain course objectives, O’Neil et al. provide a new model for assessing and evaluating online learning. This model divides student achievement and course evaluation into three phases, initial/pre-course, continuous/formative, and end/summative. During each phase, data is gathered and analyzed to serve as a guide to modify and revise the course and instruction as needed. Figure 6.1 below is a representation of O’Neil, Fisher, and Newbold’s model for assessing and evaluating learning online (p. 144):

Figure 6.1: The Model for Assessing and Evaluating Learning Online Figure 6.1: The Model for Assessing and Evaluating Learning Online

This section focuses on the three phases of student assessment and course evaluation providing methods and techniques to guide you through each phase. Brief overviews on how to develop rubrics and design tests are provided at the end of the section.