image description

Unit 3

Qualities of Good Assessment (summarizing Suskie, 2009)

As suggested in Unit 2, a good assessment process embodies the four components of the continuous improvement loop:

  1. Establishing clear, measurable expected outcomes of student learning.
  2. Ensuring that students have sufficient opportunities to achieve those outcomes.
  3. Systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well actual student learning matches our expectations.
  4. Using the resulting information to understand and improve student learning.

Perhaps the most important component—and the one most often overlooked—is the last: assessment results should be used to improve teaching and learning and inform curricular and budget planning in a department, as well across the university. The key point: assessment is only as good as it is useful (and used). Assessment data that sits on a shelf unused is a waste of everyone’s time and resources and fails to satisfy its fundamental purpose: ongoing and systematic improvement of student learning outcomes.

With this in mind, Linda Suskie (2009, Table 3.1, p. 37) lists four key dimensions of good assessment processes. Good assessments:

  • provide (reasonably) accurate and truthful information,
  • have a clear purpose,
  • engage faculty and staff, and
  • focus on clear and important student learning goals.

To this we could add a fifth key characteristic:

  • Effectively balance costs and benefits.

Suskie’s diagram shows how these characteristics of good assessment overlap, as illustrated below. In the next section we take a closer look at these five dimensions of good assessment that Suskie identified.

Pages: 1 2