Direct Assessment evaluates student work to see if it achieves the intended levels of learning.

Indirect Assessment is the gathering of information through surveys, exit interviews, focus groups, employer reviews, and other means for uncovering the quality of student performance. Feedback might come directly from students, instructors, employers, or others who may provide relevant information. Indirect assessment through surveys and focus groups might lead to improvements in a program, but they do not directly provide evidence of student learning. For example, a student in a course exit-survey might claim her critical thinking skills have improved, but that does not necessarily prove that her critical thinking skills have indeed improved. Self-evaluation is a precious tool for learning, but it is not evidence.

Summative Assessment occurs at the end of the semester or program, after all course or program materials are taught and student work evaluated for meeting the SLOs.

Formative Assessment is sometimes referred to as class assessment. Techniques are context-specific, such as tests, quizzes, demonstrations, performances, lab reports and quick assessments, such as the “one-sentence response,” “the minute paper,” and “the muddiest point.” These are usually performed a short period of time after (or during) a unit or lesson, or at the mid-term point of a semester. Formative assessment reveals student learning on an on-going basis, providing the instructor with immediate proof whether his or her teaching methods are proving effective.

assessment-cartoonFor example, a “muddiest point” response from students can reveal what they are most confused about in a chemistry or mathematics class and might lead to immediate follow-up with review and/or additional instruction by the instructor.  Formative or class assessment provides reliable evidence that learning outcomes are being achieved within the semester.  Classroom Assessment Techniques:  A Handbook for College Teachers by Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross, 2nd edition, is considered by some to be the definitive text on formative assessment.

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