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Assessment Glossary

Below you will find an explanation of many key terms in assessment as well as links to more information.


Alignment: The process of analyzing how explicit criteria line up or build upon one another within a particular learning pathway. 

Assessment: An ongoing process aimed at exploring and improving student learning and success.

Assessment Cycle: The four stages of the assessment process including identifying outcomes, mapping outcomes to assessment methods, analyzing the data, and then using the findings to "close the loop."

Assessment Method: How the learning outcome will be assessed. This may involve either:

  • Direct Measures: Student products that provide evidence of student learning, such as exam questions or a class project.
  • Indirect Measures: Perceptions of learning rather than actual demonstrations of outcome achievement, such as surveys and interviews.

Assessment Plan: A document that outlines the student learning outcomes, assessment methods used to collect evidence related to the attainment of each outcome, and the timeline at which the evidence is collected and reviewed. 

Bloom's Taxonomy: A framework for categorizing levels of knowledge. The framework consists of six categories:

  • Knowledge: Recalling or remembering information.
  • Comprehension: Explaining ideas or concepts.
  • Application: The ability to put ideas and concepts to work in solving problems.
  • Analysis: Breaking down information into its component parts, determining how the parts relate to one another or to the overall structure or purpose.
  • Synthesis: The ability to put parts together to form something original.
  • Evaluation: Judging the value of evidence based on definite criteria.

Capstone Assessment: Assessment embedded into course taken at the culmination of a program. Capstones broaden, deepen, and integrate multiple aspects of the program and they often include a final project that provides evidence for learning in multiple program-level outcomes. Click here to learn more.

Checklists: A tool for identifying the presence or absence of knowledge, skills, or behaviors.

Classroom Assessment Techniques: Short, flexible tools for collecting data on student learning. They provide quick feedback and the data from these are used to facilitate continuous modifications and improvement in the classroom. Click here to learn more.

Closing the Loop: The process of using assessment results to improve student learning.

Course Assessment:
 The collection of data aimed at measuring successful learning in an individual course with the ultimate goal of improving learning and pedagogical practice.

Course Map: A matrix that connects learning outcomes for a particular course to the activities within the course. Click here to learn more.

Curriculum Map: A matrix which aligns courses with program-level outcomes in order to see what is taught, when. They showcase where there may be gaps or over-concentration in the curriculum and also provide a road map for program-level assessment by documenting in which courses program-level outcomes are assessed. Click here to learn more.

Exit Interviews: Graduating students are interviewed or surveyed to obtain feedback. This data is usually used to address strengths and weakness of a program or major.

Focus Groups: A facilitated discussion including a carefully constructed series of open-ended questions which ask participants about their attitudes, beliefs, and experiences.

Formative Assessment: The process of monitoring student learning and providing ongoing feedback and adjustments throughout the course. Click here to learn more.

Item Analysis: The process of examining student responses to individual test questions in order to assess the quality of those items and of the test as a whole. Click here to learn more.

Key Assessments: Course assignments or exams that are directly aligned to program-level learning outcomes and used to represent student learning on those outcomes. Click here to learn more.

Logic Model: A concise way of describing your office or program that shows the path between what goes into your office/program and what comes out of it. Click here to learn more.

Mission Statement: A braod statement of what the program is, what it does, and for whom it does it.

Peer Assessment: A process whereby students evaluate the work of their peers.

Portfolio: A systemic and organized collection a student's work that exhibits direct evidence of a student's efforts, achievements, and progress over a period of time. An electronic version of these are referred to as Eportfolios. 

Program Assessment: The systematic collection of data aimed at measuring successful learning within a program or major with the ultimate goal of improving learning and pedagogical practice. 

Rating scales: A tool used for assessing the performance of tasks, skill levels, procedures, or products. They indicate the degree of accomplishments rather than just a yes or a no.

Rubric: A type of scoring guide that assesses and articulates specific components and expectations for an assignment. A rubric can improve the consistency and accuracy of assessments conducted across multiple settings. Click here to learn more.

Self-Assessment: A process in which a student engages in a systematic review of what they are learning and how they are learning it.

Student Learning Outcomes: The knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits of mind that students take with them from a learning experience. Click here to learn more.

Outcomes are different from:

  • Objectives: Different from outcomes in that they are smaller, more specific types of performances. They describe the aspects of a particular learning outcome.
  • Goals: Broad, general statements of what a course, program, or activity intends to accomplish. 

Summative Assessment: Assessment conducted after a program has been implemented and completed to  make judgments about its quality or worth compared to previously defined standards.

Surveys: A method of collecting information regarding attitudes, beliefs, experiences, values, etc.

Assessment Terminology for Gallaudet, Gallaudet University

Definitions/Glossary, University of Hawaii, Manoa 

SLO Terminology Glossary: A Resource for Local Senates, The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges

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