The assessment process can often feel like a chore, particularly when faculty feel like they’re doing double work by grading students on their coursework and then spending additional time on assessment reporting. It can also be challenging to create common performance indicators so that all faculty are measuring in the same way. (For example, one faculty member’s 3 on a rubric can be another instructor’s 5, creating inconsistency across campus.) So how can you make the measurement process easier?
Keep your goal in mind
The goal of assessment isn’t to overhaul your programs or curriculum (although that can happen). Your goal is to make sure your institution is achieving its mission. Don’t worry about getting too granular in your measurement efforts; instead, focus on measuring the most important things first – what matters most to your institution and your students.
Create consistent instruments
Spend the time up front to create centralized assessment instruments so that expectations are clear from the start. Clearly define your outcomes and identify objective ways to measure progress and results with validity and reliability in mind.
Figure out the best way to measure how students are performing, and create clear definitions of success. Rubrics are very helpful in reducing subjectivity in scoring, and you don’t have to start from scratch in developing your own. Find out how other institutions analyze similar programs and adapt their rubrics to meet your needs.
Share results early and often
By circulating assessment data widely (and frequently), faculty can see their impact on the assessment process and why their work matters. The valuable insights in these reports help improve course quality, enhance the learning experience, and make it possible to pivot quickly if needed.
Don’t overcomplicate it
Curriculum mapping and activity maps help surface the most important courses and artifacts, which are the ones you should pay attention to. By staying focused, it’s easier to create a clear, shared understanding across the organization of what you’re trying to measure and how best to assess student learning.
Evolve measurements over time
Ideally, your measurements will stay as consistent as possible each term so that you can gather longitudinal data and analyze trends. But it’s also important to consistently evaluate your measurement strategy to make sure you’re collecting the best possible data. Pay attention to results and action items from the measure, and if you’re seeing issues, consider making a change.
Make changes strategically
If you’re seeing an area that needs improvement, be thoughtful about adjustments. By measuring the most important items first, you’ll be able to see when an outcome requires more coverage in the coursework or when outcomes need to be adjusted to align with changes outside the classroom (new technology, current events, societal shifts, and the like).
Use the right tools for the process
Assessment software for higher education is built based on best practices and accreditor requirements, which means a lot of the heavy lifting is done for you. If you implement the tool and work within its templates and structure, you’ll spend less time designing and managing your process and more time applying the insights that come from the data.
For quick tips to simplify your measurement strategy, check out Assessment Foundations: Direct & Indirect Measures.