Assessment Methods

Assessment at All Levels

Outcomes Assessment can take place in many ways, at many levels. As a general rule, administrators will be involved in assessment activities that reflect the effectiveness of the entire institution (MACRO assessment), faculty will be primarily interested in assessment activities that evaluate the effectiveness of classroom activities and the effectiveness of a particular course (MICRO). They both will be interested in assessing activities that evaluate the program (MEZZO). Elements of a successful and useful assessment plan will include some activities that provide independent or outside verification and validation of the assessment, and a formal means of documenting the changes made as a result of information gained by an assessment activity. All successful assessment activities will follow some format similar to the PLAN-DO-CHECK-ACT model.


PLAN -The first step is to PLAN the assessment. The plan should be related to the goal at hand, and could start as simply as a professor wondering “Did this unit have the desired effect”, or “Are my students learning what they need to know…” A plan would then be developed to measure that achievement. Let us assume the professor decides to use a Capstone Project to measure the student’s comprehension of the course.

DO-After the plan is developed (Capstone Project, for instance) it is implemented. For example, the professor assigns a project that will demonstrate the student’s mastery of the desired skills. At the end of the assessment, which could be for an entire semester or merely a part of the term, the professor will evaluate the results.

CHECK – the professor examines the results of the assessment, and decides if it is good news (the students mastered the concept) or not-so-good-news (Some improvement is needed).

ACT – If the news was of the Not-So-Good category, something needs to be changed that will bring about the desired results. may be involve a different methodology in teaching, changing the curricular materials, or changing a sequence of events in the course. After the change, the P-D-C-A circle continues as the professor reviews the assessment plan in anticipation of measuring the difference the change will make.

Designing an Assessment Activity:

Because grade inflation has grades as a measurement of learning highly suspect, other methods are required to objectively measure what students have learned. That does NOT mean that assessment activities should not be a graded activity, but that relying on course grades is not in itself a sufficient measure of student achievement.

Not every activity listed below is appropriate for every class. It is up to the instructor to choose an activity that fits with their “instructional style” and that will provide useful information. Not every chosen activity will be effective. Trial and error will not only result in a continually changing Assessment Plan, but should also result in continually improving Student Outcomes. In designing a Assessment activity, you should keep the following items should be kept in mind: 

  • Assessment is a multifaceted process for making judgments and decisions about student learning and ultimately program viability. An assessment is a powerful force that can be used in improving not only student learning, but teaching as well (Beale, 1993).
  • Student Learning Outcomes Assessment is an attempt to validate what a student has learned.
  • An additional benefit of Outcomes Assessment is that the focus on achieving an objective measurement will make it possible to bring the principals of Quality Assurance to Higher Education.

Simply stated, if you can measure something, you can compare it to a standard, and if it is lacking, you can take steps to improve it. Equally important, you have a means of determining if the changes have had the desired effect. In the fast-paced world our society has become, if you are not improving you are falling behind. Assessment gives us the tools to ensure we continue to move ahead.

Assessment Methods

Some methods used for assessing Student Learning Outcomes are:

  1. Pre-testing & Post-testing. Students are given a pre- and post-test to determine the degree to which they have gained knowledge and understanding of the subject.
  2. Survey of Students and Employers. The college Research and Planning Department conducts a survey of certificate and degree completers and "occasional" students, as well as their employers, to determine student and employer satisfaction with the curriculum.
  3. Internal surveys of students and teachers.
  4. Assurance of Satisfaction Claims. San Juan College publishes a list of occupational competencies for each A.A.S and Certificate program. Each degree and certificate recipient receives an assurance of satisfaction to be made available to employers upon hiring the student into the appropriate job.  The assurance guarantees that the college will retrain any SJC graduate found to be deficient in any assured skill, tuition-free to the student and the employer. The number of Claims on Assurance of Satisfaction is used to measure the effectiveness of the programs.
  5. Success of Subsequent Courses.  Many courses are sequential with the earlier courses in the sequence serving as prerequisites for subsequent courses.  Success in the prerequisite courses is assessed by student performance in the subsequent course(s).
  6. Success on Licensure and Certification Examinations. At the end of the spring semester, the program director for each career program reports the annual success rate for those students taking licensure and certification exams.
  7. National Tests. The College Assessment of Academic Proficiency (CAAP) is administered to a representative sample of students who complete their sophomore year with not less than 35 credit hours in general education classes at San Juan College.  The test is graded and analyzed by ACT, which provides summary reports to the college in all six test areas.
  8. Progress Charts. Programs in Technology division which have defined competencies maintain a progress chart of those competencies to be completed for each course. At the end of the spring semester, the number of students completing 91-99%, 81-90%, 71-80%, 61-70%, and less than 60% of progress report competencies are reported.
  9. Benchmarking. Final exams for selected courses are randomly chosen by a nonbiased person and sent to another institution to be graded and evaluated.  Once they are returned to the college, the grading is compared to that done by the college's instructors to check for differences.
  10. Capstone Classes Success in advanced courses is used to track student progress in the program.
  11. Hiring Statistics and Employment. Surveys are done by individual departments to determine employment status and employer satisfaction of their graduates.
  12. Portfolios/Tracking. Portfolios are selected from a group of students randomly, and evaluated by an assessment committee or an external source. One program uses portfolios to track students throughout the program.
  13. Enrollment in a Baccalaureate Program is tracked in 2 programs.
  14. Participation in Art Shows, Community Theatre, Community Performances, Continuing Participation in Music Performance, and Theatre Competition are used by Fine Arts as an assessment tool.


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