Assessing Student Learning in Higher Education

Section 1

Section 2
Background and Rationale for Assessment

Section 3
Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

Section 4
 Assessment Tools and Data
 Quality Data
 Defining Terms
Assessment Tools
 Grades & Assessment
Primary Trait Analysis
Selecting the Tools
  Creating a Tool
Your SLOs

Section 5
Course Assessment

Section 6
Program Assessment


Section 7
Closing the Loop

Section 8
Implementing Assessment Training on Campus


Section 9
References & Resources



Using Materials from this Website


Create an Assessment Tool

Now it is your turn to select a tool from the previous table, convert something you already use, or create an assignment that could be used for an embedded assessment tool that aligns with one of the SLOs you have written.

  1. Look at the SLOs for your favorite course (written in section 3). Do a mini-assessment audit. Are there any assignments, projects, or exams that provide good data on a specific student learning outcome? If not, you may need to create a new assignment. Determine which type of assessment tool best assessed that the student can DO the outcome. This should be authentic; closely resembling a real life experience. Will the student perform a task, create a product, analyze a case study, recite detailed information, or solve a problem?

  2. Identify the purpose of the assessment. Will it be formative or summative?  If it is formative, how will feedback be given? Will you use it to provide feedback from other students as well as yourself? If summative, has the student had ample practice and feedback to do what is expected?

  3. Do Primary Trait Analysis (PTA). Identify the major traits that determine a successful outcome. (For important projects this can be created with the students thus becoming a powerful teaching tool engaging the students and fully informing them about the expectations. Warning - collaborating with students can be time consuming; use this for important or high stakes assignments/assessments.)

  4. Describe the criteria relating to the traits and create a checklist, rubric or set of descriptive performance standards. Consider psychomotor, affective and cognitive outcomes. Set criteria at the appropriate level of thinking (Bloom’s taxonomy).

  5. Create a grading rubric by weighting the criteria appropriately. Do not include attendance or improvement as a criterion. The criteria should be standards-based, not norm-referenced. Look at samples of artifacts to determine the criteria. Try the rubric out on student work and make appropriate modifications.

  6. Use the checklist below (and linked in the resource section as a downloadable document) to  evaluate the assessment tool you have selected or created. Modify the tool appropriately.

  7. Share the tool with other faculty and get feedback.

    Assessment Tool Checklist 

    1.           Does the assessment adequately evaluate academic performance relevant to the desired outcome? (validity)


    2.           Does this assessment tool enable students with different learning styles or abilities to show you what they have learned and what they can do?


    3.           Does the content examined by the assessment align with the content from the course? (Content validity)


    4.           Does this assessment method adequately address the knowledge, skills, abilities, behavior, and values associated with the intended outcome? (Domain validity)


    5.           Will the assessment provide information at a level appropriate to the outcome? (Bloom’s)


    6.           Will the data accurately represent what the student can do in an authentic or real life situation? (Authentic assessment)


    7.           Is the grading scheme consistent; would a student receive the same grade for the same work on multiple evaluations? (Reliability)


    8.           Can multiple people use the scoring mechanism and come up with the same general score? (Reliability)


    9.           Does the assessment provide data that is specific enough for the desired outcomes? (alignment with SLO)


    10.       Is the assessment summative or formative - if formative does it generate diagnostic feedback to improve learning?


    11.       Is the assessment summative or formative - if summative, is the final evaluation built upon multiple sources of data? (AAHE Good practice)


    12.       If this is a summative assessment, have the students had ample opportunity for formative feedback and practice displaying what they know and can do?


    13.       Is the assessment unbiased or value-neutral, minimizing an attempt to give desirable responses and reducing any cultural misinterpretations?


    14.       Are the intended uses for the assessment clear? (Grading, program review, both)


    15.       Have other faculty provided feedback?


    16.       Has the assessment been pilot-tested?


    17.       Has the evaluation instrument been normed?


    18.       Will the information derived from the assessment help to improve teaching and learning? (AAHE Good Practice)


    19.        Will you provide the students with a copy of the rubric or assignment grading criteria?


    20.       Will you provide the students examples of model work?



      Take a quick quiz


Resources and Links



Create an Assessment Tool Worksheet

Assessment Tool Checklist

Jon Meuller's Website on Authentic Assessment


Janet Fulks
Assessing Student Learning in Community Colleges (2004), Bakersfield College