Assessment Trends: How To Evolve Your Assessment Strategy

September 21, 2023 Watermark Insights

The ultimate goal of assessment is continuous improvement for your institution, but it’s also important to keep improving the assessment process itself. With so many new ideas around assessment, how do you know which trends to adopt and which to ignore?

Dr. Susan Kahn, former Director of Planning and Institutional Improvement Initiatives, and Dr. Stephen Hundley, Senior Advisor to the Chancellor for Planning and Institutional Improvement, both assessment experts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), discussed emerging trends in assessment with us in a Watermark webinar.

Here are two noteworthy strategies you might consider to evolve your assessment strategy.

Assessment Trend: Create Learning Outcomes That Include Personal, Academic, and Professional Development

Assessment experts have recently discovered the importance of developing holistic student experiences, which include both academic and dispositional skills.

Where to Start: Build a Framework For Designing Outcomes

The Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS), an organization that promotes professional standards of student development, created a framework that simplifies designing a set of holistic outcomes. Their framework outlines six outcome dimensions that support holistic student development:

  1. Knowledge acquisition, construction, integration, and application focus on a student's career-specific knowledge. Outcomes developed under this umbrella connect ideas and experiences to lesson disciplines.
  2. Cognitive complexity encompasses critical and reflective thinking skills like problem-solving and decision-making.
  3. Interpersonal development outcomes are about self-awareness, teamwork, and verbal communication with others.
  4. Interpersonal competence outcomes develop meaningful relationships with classmates and faculty.
  5. Humanitarianism and civic engagement outcomes are about appreciating cultural and human differences. They encourage students to have a global perspective.
  6. Practical competence outcomes encapsulate workflow planning, pursuing goals, and effective written communication.

As you’re using this framework to design more holistic outcomes, a digital tool can offer ways to align them with your overarching curriculum strategy. Solutions like Watermark Planning & Self-Study merge planning, assessment, and outcomes into a single hub, providing you with a clear visual of your holistic outcomes and their measures.

Assessment Trend: Create and Use Authentic Measures

Authentic measures allow you to measure a broader range of student learning outcomes. How do these assessments differ from traditional measures? Authentic, innovative assessments test a student's knowledge in a realistic situation with high-impact practices (HIPs), whereas traditional measures rely on tests and essays.

Where to Start: Incorporate High-Impact Practices Into Your Curriculum

According to the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), high-impact practices sharpen students' academic and professional skills. Students whose education includes HIPs achieve higher levels of learning success.

Examples of HIPs include:

  • ePortfolios collect students' work over time, linking their educational experiences together to form a holistic view of their artifacts and time at college.
  • Internships provide students with direct experience in a work setting related to their career interests.
  • Service- and community-based learning experiences are field-based opportunities with community partners. These experiences directly involve students in the issues they are studying while enabling them to give back to their communities.
  • Undergraduate research gets students actively involved in investigation and research early in their college career.
  • Capstone courses and projects require students to create a project that applies all the skills they have learned across their courses.
  • Collaborative assignments and projects are opportunities for students to learn to work and solve problems with others.
  • Common intellectual experiences are a set of required general education courses. They often involve participation in a group or learning community.
  • Diversity and global learning opportunities are courses that help students explore different cultures, worldviews, and life experiences. They often explore issues related to race, gender inequality, and human rights.
  • First-year seminars and experiences are courses where students can develop their critical thinking, writing, and literacy skills to better prepare them for the college experience.
  • Learning communities integrate learning across multiple courses and cover discussions about “big questions” that go beyond the classroom. A group of students in a learning community take two or more linked courses and explore common topics and readings together.
  • Writing-intensive courses emphasize the importance of writing at all levels and across curriculums. They enhance students' reasoning, communication, and literacy skills.

As you incorporate HIPs into your assessment plan, digital tools offer ways to align them with your overarching curriculum strategy and outcomes. Watermark Planning & Self-Study provides a clear visual of your curriculum’s alignment, while Student Learning & Licensure creates a place for you to design and implement authentic measures while delivering a holistic view of your student's progress. It is also an accessible hub for students to complete their assignments, log their field time, and reflect on their learning experiences.

Continue Your Assessment Strategy Evolution

If you’re interested in learning about other trends that could help your institution evolve its assessment strategy, check out our Trends in Assessment: Ideas, Opportunities, and Issues for Higher Education webinar.

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