Linda Suskie

  A Common Sense Approach to Assessment & Accreditation


What is good assessment?

Posted on December 20, 2013 at 6:40 AM

There are many statements of principles of good assessment practice. Several years ago I integrated them into one short list of just five traits that I hoped would be easier to understand and share. Since then I've tweaked my list, taking it down to four traits, then most recently up to six. But as I look at them now, I see just two fundamental principles of good assessment practice, with all the other traits falling within these two principles.

1. Good assessment practices yield results that are used in meaningful ways to improve teaching and learning as well as to inform plans and resource allocation decisions. This is the fundamental characteristic of good assessment. If your results are good enough quality that you can use them, they are good enough. Results are useful if they meet the following traits.

--Results flow from clear, important and relevant learning outcomes. If no one is using assessment results for your stated learning outcomes, perhaps your learning outcomes aren't all that important.

--Results are reasonably accurate and truthful. If you're not looking at enough student work, or your rubric criteria aren't consistently interpreted, for example, your results won't be useful.

--You have justifiable targets or standards for acceptable results.In other words, you've defined what successful results look like. Results can be used for improvement only if you have a good, clear sense of whether or not improvements are warranted and where improvements are most needed.

--Results are easy to find and easy to understand. If people don't have ready access to the results or they can't understand them, they can't use them for improvement.

--Results come from outside your college or program as well as within. External evidence informs your learning outcomes, your standards and your use of results.

2. Good assessment practices are sustained and pervasive. They are not bursts of effort just before an accreditation review, and they are not in just a few pockets here and there. They are part of everyday life.  Assessment is sustained and pervasive if it meets the following traits:

-- Assessment practices are cost-effective, yielding benefits that are worth the time, effort, and resources put into them. They are kept as simple and practical as possible.

--Assessment practices are adequately supported by the college with professional development, resources, expertise, incentives, and recognition.

--Assessment practices are flexible, evolving over time and varying by discipline and program so the results are maximum value.

Categories: Good assessment

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