AGuide – Step 3

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Step 3: Develop Appropriate Measurement Tools

See also Measurement Tools.

Now that you know what Student Learning Outcomes you want to assess, you need to figure out how you are going to collect the necessary data. Keep in mind you want as many of these measurement tools to be direct rather than indirect data. This may take some creative thinking on your part, especially if different instructors are doing different kinds of tasks to illustrate the same SLO. Keep in mind that if you can create a measurement tool out of something you are already doing that you should do so! If, for example, one of your SLOs is to teach students to analyze primary documents and use them effectively as evidence to support their argument and are already assigning two short papers, you might create a rubric and use both of those papers to show improvement from the beginning to the end of the semester. The key here is the rubric so that you are targeting specific skills for assessment and that all of the faculty are adhering to the same scale. You could use a standardized test, if one is available in your area.

You can use student surveys – asking, for example,if students believe that they have more cultural awareness as a result of the course – but this type of measurement tool cannot be the only kind of measurement you are taking as it is an indirect measure. Also, remember that a course grade is a poor measure of specific learning outcomes. A course grade embodies too much information (the sum of all the skills in the course); you want the part of the course that targeted the skill you want to measure.

Indirect measures are those that rely on reports of learning. These may be valuable in providing information about what students are learning and how this learning is valued. These can be reports by students themselves, instructors, supervisors (of interns or service learning), or employers. The strength of these kinds of measures is that they can get at implicit qualities of student learning such as values and attitudes and can take into account a variety of perspectives. The weakness is that these measures provide no direct evidence of student learning.

Direct measures are those that are taken directly from student work. The strength of these measures are that you can capture a sample of what students can do, which is strong evidence of student learning. Direct measures, though, may be weak in measuring values, attitudes, feelings, and perceptions.

Direct Measures Indirect Measures
  • Essay test question
  • Research paper
  • Oral presentation
  • Multiple-choice test question
  • Performance piece (e.g., musical recital)
  • Case analysis
  • Standardized test
  • Class project (individual or group)
  • Poster presentation
  • Internship or practicum
  • Capstone projects, senior theses, exhibits, or performances
  • Pass rates or scores on licensure, certification, or subject area tests
  • Student publications or conference presentations
  • Survey of current students
  • Survey of faculty members
  • Survey of internship supervisors
  • Survey of graduates
  • Survey of employers
  • Survey of transfer institutions
  • Acceptance rates into graduate programs
  • Job placement data
  • Exit interviews