The task at this step is to identify and use measures appropriate for assessing the level at which students have achieved desired learning objectives. Needed now is agreement among faculty as to what evidence will assure that students are achieving the skills, knowledge, and values important to the academic unit. This moves the assessment process from a focus on intended results expressed as learning objectives to the level of achieved results (learning outcomes).
Many measures can evaluate the objectives for learning, but it is important not to depend on a single measure to provide data about what and how well students are learning. Doing so can result in misinformation. Just as students learn in different ways, students respond differently with various evaluation tools. Using varied measures over time, including performance measures, more accurately affirms change and growth in learning. This allows greater confidence when recommending changes in the learning and assessment processes. Multiple measures to evaluate the learning objective for the School of Architecture (see above) are offered below as examples of several ways to provide data about the level of student learning, each related to the same learning objective.
Capstone Experience Evaluation measures through explicitly defined criteria the competency level at which students have mastered the knowledge, skills, and values that define the major. To evaluate the level at which students have mastered one facet of this course, responsibility for enhancing the physical environment, seniors would write a paper. Faculty would establish a scoring guide (rubric) of the essential elements used to judge this work. The elements might include knowledge of environmental policies, their historical development, their level of environmental impact, and students’ understanding and valuation of policies that benefit or threaten the environment. Each criterion/element would have a subscale defined possibly as percentages or in specific terms that are agreed to measure the competency of student work.
Internally Developed Tests are established by consensus of members of the faculty to measure, as above, the level of knowledge students have about legal and ethical policies regarding the physical environment, how they would use policies to enhance the environment, and their personal values regarding this issue. To ensure questions focus on the objectives of the program, elements should be evaluated that nearly all faculty in the program agree should be known, applied, and show commitment to the learning objective.
Surveys garnered often from alumni, employers, and students indirectly measure through self-report the competency of student learning at various times during their academic career or after completion of their studies. The program might choose a survey of graduates three years out to evaluate what responsibilities they are taking with regard to enhancing the environment, the degree to which they believe their studies fostered the direction they have taken, and the value of this objective to their job opportunities or community service.
Some questions that need to be considered when selecting measures include the following:
- What schedule can be established to ensure an ongoing process of evaluation of objectives?
- Will an externally developed test measure the specific goals and objectives of interest?
- Are there faculty who can prepare internally developed tests or performance measures that are valid and reliable?
- How can students be motivated to do their best on any measures assessing learning?