What are some appropriate assessment measures for academic programs?

Assessment Measures

There are a variety of assessment strategies from which to choose. Keep in mind that each strategy has advantages and disadvantages. Because no measurement is perfect, we recommend the use of multiple measures in assessing any outcome. While indirect measures can provide valuable information, all student learning outcomes for academic programs should have at least one direct measure of student learning.

Indirect Measures

Indirect measures are typically reports or other non-performance-based indicators of learning. These include student or alumni self-reports of learning, faculty reports of student learning, and employer reports of how graduates of Appalachian perform. Although indirect measures offer important information, indirect measures are not looked upon as favorably as direct measures. Indirect measures are most valuable when used in conjunction with direct measures.

Examples of indirect measures:

  • Surveys of students, alums, or employers
  • Focus groups of students, alums, or employers
  • Exit interviews
  • An external review of the program
  • Involvement records
  • Success of students after graduation (graduate school, job placement, etc.)

Direct Measures

Direct measures require that students demonstrate achievement of learning outcomes. Direct measures imply that there is a product that can be evaluated.

Examples of direct measures:

  • Exams/tests
    • national standardized tests (MFAT, ACT-CAAP, CLA, etc.)
    • locally developed tests
  • Overall work product
    • career portfolio
    • capstone project - a culminating project that provides evidence of how well a student integrates and applies principles, concepts, and abilities
  • Performances (public or taped)
  • Presentations (public or taped)
  • Exhibitions
  • Internship evaluations
  • Behavioral observations
  • Clinical evaluations
  • Course-embedded assessment - methods of assessment that occur in the context of a course
    • tests
    • reports/essays
    • projects
    • portfolios - collections of students' work over time that provide longitudinal evidence of student achievement

Course-Embedded Assessment

A major advantage to course-embedded assessment is student motivation. When assessment takes place within the context of a course, students usually perform at a higher level than if they are simply asked to take a test or demonstrate some ability for assessment purposes alone. Course-embedded assessment is often referred to as "authentic" assessment. Other advantages to course-embedded assessment include higher response rates and the ability to use the same product for both a course grade and assessment purposes.