Assessment of Learning

Program Learning Outcomes Assessment

Please visit the Office of the Provost’s page on Program Learning Outcomes Assessment:

Determining how well students understand the material in your class

How can we tell whether the students are actually learning what we are trying to teach them? Traditionally, we give our students assignments, quizzes, exams, and ask the class to speak up with questions if anything is unclear. But they often don’t speak up even when they are completely at sea. They don’t score 100% on assignments and exams, and the results are not known immediately. Although these traditional methods do have some value in our evaluation of how well the students understand the material, they should be supplemented by other assessment tools.

Classroom Assessment Techniques

It is most useful if an instructor can determine on the spot whether the class understands a concept after it has been discussed. One technique is to ask the class a question based on a concept. If the question can be cast into a multiple-choice format, the students can vote on the answer. In order to keep them from being affected by how their peers vote, you can use an electronic student response system or, for a relatively small class, pieces of paper with the number of the answer written on it.

For more involved questions, you can split the students into groups of 2–5 and ask them to discuss the issue. Then you can ask a randomly selected member of each group to state the conclusion and the reasoning behind it. Misconceptions will be made apparent.

In-class quizzes are most useful if given before the end of class so that there is enough time to review and discuss the questions and answers before the students disperse. A variant on the quiz is not to have it count for a grade, but to have groups of 2–5 students exchange papers and discuss discrepancies. Then give the class the answers and ask the students once again to discuss differences between their answers and yours. They will then be prepared to ask you about concepts that the pair of students was unable to apply successfully to the questions–and you might find that some of your questions were poorly worded!

At the end of each class, you could have the students write down and hand in a list of two things they learned in class that day and at least one concept about which they are still unclear.

You should design assignments such that at least some of the questions probe the students’ understanding of concepts rather than simply their ability to follow a recipe.

Other methods for assessing student learning are given at the websites listed below.


Center for Assessment and Evaluation of Student Learning 

University of Texas website

Angelo, T. A. and Cross, K. P. (1993) Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers)