Modify the Learning Experience
One of the fundamental goals of assessment is not just to collect data, but also to use those data to improve the teaching and learning process. Therefore, an important part of the assessment cycle is applying those results to address student learning and the education process.
An important part of assessment is to continually improve the quality of the course and the class experience to facilitate and encourage student learning and progress. Thus, if your assessment data show that in the aggregate, students are doing less well than you want them to on one outcome, it is important to change the way that issue is being taught or to offer additional focus on that area, or to rethink whether the outcome is appropriately defined for the purposes of the class. On the other hand, if students are learning as well or better than your set criteria, you may want to raise the bar and rewrite the goals to expect more of your students. These changes in your teaching or your evaluation of students may necessitate a change in how you assess your course in the future, which is why the assessment process is often described as circular. The data you collect informs changes in your teaching, which then causes shifts in how you assess, and the cycle continues.
One way of monitoring and summarizing your course-level assessment process is to create a written assessment report (see below) that can organize and present your data and findings from your assessment project. An additional benefit of a written assessment report is that it can be shared with your colleagues, department, and other stakeholders to report how students are learning in your class and to demonstrate student learning with evidence.
Preparing a Written Assessment Report
An assessment report is a summary of the assessment findings and activities that were conducted over a period of time, typically a one-year period. An assessment report cannot be fully created until after the data have been collected and interpreted and related back to the learning goals and outcomes. Assessment reports are often completed for a specific purpose, such as to share the success of a course and how it aligns with program-level assessment, etc. and to feed these results into larger levels of assessment. Assessment reports typically have the following components in addition to those for the assessment plan:
- Review and revise course goals and learning outcomes as needed to ensure that they are what you want to collect data on in the following steps.
- Evidence: observations, findings, and results - The evidence is a summary of the findings collected to evaluate the quality of learning for the relevant goal and/or associated outcome. For course-level evaluations, evidence will be aggregated across individual students. Both qualitative and quantitative information can be used.
- For each goal and outcome, it is necessary to indicate the extent to which the minimum criteria, and criteria for excellence if established, are met.
- Use of evidence: Review and communication of findings - This use of evidence about student learning refers to how the information was actually evaluated, reviewed, and shared routinely according to the assessment plan. Assessment information can also be used in other review and planning activities beyond a formal plan, such as unit program review and strategic planning. Such information could be included in a report.
- Use of evidence: Changes made as a result of the findings - This use of evidence about student learning refers to any actions taken or changes that were made as a result of the assessment review. If actions were taken or changes were made, the means by which the changes themselves will be assessed should be considered. Other use of assessment information could also be indicated in a report.
- Next steps or actions planned - Next steps represent a short-term plan about assessment activities aimed at improving the course and facilitating student learning, as well as continuing the iterative assessment cycle. Steps might include action plans that result from collected evidence about student learning, continued implementation or refinement of the larger plan, or other relevant expected activities.
- Reaffirm or revise course goals and learning outcomes if it is determined that the assessment methods were not able to appropriately assess whether they have been achieved.
- Repeat the process.
To strengthen the assessment process, plans and reports should incorporate best practices to make the assessment strategy most useful in improving student learning. These components for assessment reports are suggestions based on frequently included basic requirements. However, assessment reports for your courses, in your department, or in your college, may have more specific instructions and requirements that should be followed. These are only recommendations of components to include and should not be considered to supersede other instructions.
For an example of how an assessment report could be evaluated for a course-level assessment, check out our Course Assessment Report Evaluation Rubric.