What is Assessment?

Assessment definitions and terms

Purposes of Assessment




Definition of Assessment

"Assessment is putting into place a systematic process that will answer the following questions on a continuous, ongoing basis:ยท

  • What are we trying to do and why?
  • What is my program supposed to accomplish?
  • How well are we doing it? How do we know?
  • How do we use the information to improve or celebrate successes?
  • Do the improvements we make work?"

(Zelna & Anderson, 2004, pp. 8-9, as cited in Timm et al., 2013, p.5)

Steps of Assessment 





Actions for improvement

Some important distinctions:

Activities = Input: What the instructor and support staff put into the learning experience

Outcomes = Output: What you want the students to get out of the experience
Important distinction because traditionally the focus of accountability was on input (i.e., employee evaluation)

Learning Outcomes: What you expect students to be able to do, think or feel as a result of the learning experience.

Operational Outcomes: All other goals you may have for the learning experience (e.g., access, retention, success)
Important distinction to help talk about the different value and methods of these outcomes

Direct Measures: "...tangible, visible, self-explanatory and compelling evidence of exactly what students have and have not learned."

Indirect Measures: "...proxy signs that students are probably learning" (Suskie, 2009, p. 20, as cited in Timm et al., 2013, p. 14).
Important distinction to help talk about the different value and methods of these outcomes

Closing the Loop: Important definition to help talk about the "end goals" of assessment.

 a diagram of how the Learning Outcomes Assessment Process works


Timm, D. M., Barham, J. D., McKinney, K., & Knerr, A. R. (2013). Assessment in Practice: A Companion Guide to the ASK Standards. Washington, D.C.: American College Personnel Association. *longer list of assessment references available upon request