Module 6: Assessing Teaching and Learning

Assessing Student Learning:

Assessing Learning Outcomes


Throughout this course, you've learned about the importance of developing learning outcomes. Learning outcomes define the purpose of your course, guide you in developing appropriate learning experiences for your students, and play a major role in assessment. In an outcomes-focused course, assessments measure the outcomes students have achieved.

Although this concept may seem simple, it is a relatively new way of thinking about assessment. In the past, many teachers turned automatically to tests and quizzes as the best way to measure student learning. But once instructors start thinking about assessment as a way to measure attainment of learning outcomes, they often decide to adopt new methods of assessment. For example, learning outcomes such as knowing how to operate machinery, run a lab experiment, or use manufacturing tools are not well suited to paper-and-pencil tests.

Keep in mind that the objective of assessments is to discover what a student really knows. Therefore, a variety of assessments will help to appeal to the different learning and testing styles of the students in your course. Some students may need to see all of the questions and know the credit assigned to each part before starting an exam to allot their time well. Others perform best when given choices about which questions to answer, such as "Choose two of the following three..." Still other students may prefer the option of explaining a concept rather than or in addition to answering true/false or multiple-choice questions. Assessments that require the least amount of teachers' time to prepare or grade rarely do the best job.