About Assessment

Assessment focuses on learning, teaching, and student outcomes. It serves as an interactive process between students and faculty that informs faculty how well their students are learning what they are teaching. Assessment is also an ongoing process that strives to continually improve the process to achieve the desired result. Planning, analysis, and continued revisions are essential parts of the assessment cycle.

It is also important to differentiate between goals, objectives, and performance measures in order to provide a more comprehensive purview of assessment.

Goals, are broad statements that target what is to be accomplished in the course, program, etc. They serve as overarching themes which encompass many activities. Goals are supported by objectives.

Example: The goal of this course is to provide students with the fundamental knowledge of human physiology that will serve as an essential foundation for their future professional studies.

Objectives, also referred to as outcomes, are specific activities which are able to be confirmed to ensure the goal is met. These activities highlight what the learners are doing to accomplish the goal. Objectives must be measurable as they are used to support validation of the goal.

Students will perform clinical scenarios to correlate basic physiology with the pathophysiologic outcomes they may encounter in the clinical setting.

Performance measures refer to the assessments that are used to measure the objectives. Assessment serves as means by which we measure learning. In order to measure a learning outcome, the outcome must be measurable.

Below are a few common forms of assessment:

  • Case studies
  • Direct observation
  • Examinations
    1. Multiple choice
    2. Short answer
    3. Essay
    4. Oral questioning
  • Surveys
  • Simulations
  • Portfolios
  • Presentations
  • Self-assessments
  • Performance projects

Data Analysis of the results yielded from the assessment/s validate individual success. This information can also be used to evaluate learning in a summative fashion. Benchmarks are associated with determining whether success has been achieved. These can be either holistic or analytical in nature. Whether a student has achieved an “Exemplary” or “Satisfactory” level of learning on a particular project can be ascertained from the data of the assessment results. On a program or course level, a percentage of students achieving a particular level may also be used.


Evaluation of these results leads to implementing improvements. Based on the results obtained, revisions to either can occur to better support the overall goal.

Evaluation focuses on grades or scores. It also may reflect classroom components other  than course content and mastery level. The table below illustrates the dimensional  differences between both assessment and evaluation.

Dimension Difference Assessment Evaluation
 Content: timing, primary purpose  Formative: ongoing, to improve learning  Summative: final, to gauge quality
 Orientation: focus of measurement  Process-oriented: how learning is going  Product-oriented: what’s been learned
 Findings: uses  Diagnostic: identify areas for improvement  Judgmental: arrive at an overall grade/score

Evaluation References

Davidson, E. J. (2005). Evaluation methodology basics. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Scriven, M. (1991). Evaluation thesaurus (4th ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

The Evaluation Center at Western Michigan has evaluation checklists “for designing, budgeting, contracting, staffing, managing, and assessing evaluations of programs, personnel, students, and other evaluations; collecting, analyzing, and reporting evaluation information; and determining merit, worth, and significance.”