Assessing Student Learning Outcomes
Student learning outcomes (SLOs) are statements developed by faculty that describe the knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviors or values students should be able to demonstrate at the end of their program of study. To more accurately assess student attainment of learning outcomes a combination of assessment methods should be used.
Direct Measures of Assessment
Direct measures of student learning require students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. They provide tangible, visible and self-explanatory evidence of what students have and have not learned as a result of a course, program, or activity (Suskie, 2004; Palomba & Banta, 1999). Examples of direct measures include:
- Objective tests
- Classroom assignments
This example from psychology could be assessed by an essay, case study, or presentation: Students will analyze current research findings in the areas of physiological psychology, perception, learning, abnormal, and social psychology.
Indirect Measures of Assessment
Indirect measures of student learning capture students’ perceptions of their knowledge and skills; they supplement direct measures of learning by providing information about how and why learning is occurring. Examples of indirect measures include:
- Self assessment
- Peer feedback
- End of course evaluations
- Focus groups
- Exit interviews
Using the SLO example from above, an instructor could add questions to an end-of-course evaluation asking students to self assess their ability to analyze current research findings in the areas of physiological psychology, perception, learning, abnormal, and social psychology. This would be an indirect measure of the same SLO.
- Balances the limitations inherent when using only one method (Maki, 2004).
- Provides students the opportunity to demonstrate learning in an alternative way (Maki, 2004).
- Contributes to an overall interpretation of student learning at both institutional and programmatic levels.
- Values the many ways student learn (Maki, 2004).
Maki, P.L. (2004). Assessing for learning: Building a sustainable commitment across the institution. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Palomba, C.A., & Banta, T.W. (1999). Assessment essentials: Planning, implementing, and improving assessment in higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Suskie, L. (2004). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.