Assess assess assess… but HOW?

There’s a lot of talk about assessment lately, and for very good reason.  How do you know if what you’re doing is working if you’re not assessing it?

Cathy Holbrook held a session helping those of us figure out just where to begin and what to know when assessing our programs.  Read on for the recap of that session:

The Assessment Cycle is representative of implementing methods to deliver outcomes and methods to gather data.   This provides a platform to gather data and interpreting evidence, which ultimately provides information in order to make decisions to improve/enhance STUDENT centered learning and development.   The Assessment Cycle is an ongoing process that involves the collection of data to help us assess whether the programs we offer deliver the outcomes we intend. The cycle comes full circle when we interpret the evidence our gathered data provides and make decisions to improve or enhance student centered learning in that program.   It also provides information to plan, budget, set policies, and provide public/ transparent accountability.  At the heart of the cycle is our departmental mission, purpose, and goals from which we develop the specific outcomes.

There are a few key questions that you need to ask when performing assessments. For example, asking  “what are we trying to do – and WHY?” as well as “how well is this program helping students achieve the intended outcomes”.

Goals are the end result, in broad terms.  Objectives are the intended effect of a program. The outcome is the end result of the program.  Learning outcomes are the desired learning effect of a program, and are Participant centered – what the student learns, not just what we are trying to teach them.  Program outcomes help you measure the operational effectiveness of the program.

Good outcome statements are action verbs that translate intentions into action and are measurable. A common way of describing a good outcome is the term , SMART Outcome, which  means :  Specific, measurable, aggressive but attainable, results – oriented, and time-bound. Bloom Action Verbs are a good tool to assist the outcome writing because they give you action verbs at the appropriate level of learning.     (Handouts for these action verbs, Wheel of action Verbs, Bloom, and Affective Domains).

Here are a few examples of good and not so good Learning Outcome statements:

  1. NOT AN OUTCOME: “The workshop will increase students’ appreciation of Diversity.”

GOOD OUTCOME:  “As a result of attending the workshop, students will be able to identify three similarities and three differences they have with someone of a different background. (Illustrates understanding).

  1. NOT AN OUTCOME: “Students will be able to be better leaders because they were RA’s”.

GOOD OUTCOME:  “As a result of being employed as an RA, these students will demonstrate servant leadership behaviors”.   (Illustrates Application).

There are two formulas commonly used to  develop learning outcomes. One formula is the ABC approach:

_________   __________   _____________         _________________ Condition            Audience             Behavior                         Degree of Achievement  (Optional)

Another easy method to develop learning outcomes is SWiBAT

Learning Outcome = SwiBAT + Bloom Word + Condition

SwiBAT stands for “Students will be able to..”  Example: Students will be able to differentiate between two styles of leadership, as a result of participating in the Leadership Institute.

A major challenges to writing learning outcomes lies in the use of more than one outcome in a sentence, or making them more complicated than they need to be.

Basically, start out with simple statements of what your goals are for the assessment, utilizing a few of them.  Keep in mind that they sometimes take many drafts, and is best if reviewed by others before final draft.

This was a very helpful, informative presentation. Huge “thank you” to Cathy Holbrook for her expertise!  If anyone has questions about writing learning outcomes, Cathy is available at:

cholbrook@bridgew.edu

Cathy Davis – note taker.

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