Collecting Valid Evidence

Learning is a complex process.  In order to effectively measure learning, it is essential to employ multiple assessment methods. 

Examples of direct measures:

  • Authentic performances/demonstrations
  • Comprehensive exams
  • Internship evaluations
  • Jury-judged capstone assignments
  • Juried activities with outside panels
  • Licensure/professional exams
  • Portfolios of student work over time
  • Pre/post tests
  • Presentation or projects
  • Theses/dissertations
  • Standardized tests

Examples of administrative measures:

  • Activity volume
  • Benchmarking
  • Climate/environment
  • Discussions
  • Document analysis
  • Efficiency
  • Evaluations
  • Existing data
  • External report
  • Focus group
  • Government standards
  • Professional standards
  • Satisfaction
  • Service quality

Examples of indirect measures:

  • Alumni surveys
  • Employer surveys
  • Exit interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Graduate rates
  • Graduate school or job placement data
  • Honors/awards
  • National Survey of Student Engagement
    (NSSE) data
  • Retention rates
  • Student evaluations
  • Student satisfaction surveys
  • Transfer acceptance
  • Questionnaires

Assessment types:

  • Direct vs. indirect
  • Embedded
  • Formative vs. summative
  • Authentic
  • Triangulation





Can grades be used as evidence of student learning?

Please note that course grades and course completion should not be used as evidence of student learning. Grading criteria often include behavior or activities such as attendance, participation, extra credit, improvement or effort that, while valued and may be correlated to learning, typically are not direct measures of learning. Student learning assessment methods should measure what knowledge, skills, and attitudes the student has learned.

Grades on exams, projects, activities or other assignments can serve as appropriate measures of student learning as long as the measure directly corresponds with the intended learning outcome. Faculty across sections of the same course should use the same evaluation tool and criteria for grading. 

Consider developing assessment guides such as checklists, rubrics, or other scoring tools for papers, portfolios, internships, juried activities within a capstone course, and so forth. These types of evaluation tools facilitate data collection and analysis. The goal is to obtain useful data upon which modifications and decisions may be based.

Assessing your outcomes

Assessment methods should clearly align with the specified outcome. For example, are you only interested in the percentage of students who participate in internship or are you interested in assessing how students apply certain knowledge and skills in an internship setting? 

Develop a measure directly related to your outcome. In the case of student learning, consider developing a specific assignment or activity completed by the student to demonstrate the outcome. 

Consider the following questions when reviewing your assessment methods.

  • Is there a balance between direct and indirect assessment methods?
  • What types of measurement are used?
  • Does assessment occur at different points in the program of study?