Assessing Your Assessment Practices

January 11, 2017 Sarah Zahl

To assess student learning effectively, we must evaluate student performance using multiple forms of assessment.

An institution’s assessment plan typically includes numerous forms of assessment tools (e.g., multiple-choice exams, clinical encounters, essays, portfolios, simulations, quizzes, lab practicals, etc.). We regularly rely on these mechanisms to assess student learning, but are we assessing our assessment practices? To promote quality assurance of our assessment practices, it is important to evaluate the policies, procedures, and practices related to assessment. As we approach this task, we can use the following questions to guide us:

  1. Are we regularly evaluating each assessment tool to determine if it is the best fit for a specific course or learning goal?
  2. Are we seeking feedback from our key stakeholders to ensure that they find value in our assessment practices?
  3. How can we implement changes to our assessment practices to improve our process?

At the Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine, we seek student feedback at multiple points in our curriculum to gather data regarding the student experience. Through course evaluations and post-course focus groups, we request student feedback to ascertain strengths and opportunities related to the curriculum and assessment practices. Students are asked about the utility of specific elements of assessments, including alignment of learning objectives and exams, how they use ExamSoft performance reports, and how they use their longitudinal data to study for licensure exams. Their feedback helps us determine if we are using the appropriate assessment tools in each course. When appropriate, faculty create action plans for improvements to the next version of the course.

We also gather feedback from faculty regarding the use of assessment tools to determine if there are opportunities to refine our practices. As a result of this feedback, we determine how we can modify our assessment procedures to create efficiencies and provide additional faculty support. For example, we regularly update training materials and documents to support faculty in their use of ExamSoft. We also investigate how we can make grading more efficient and limit the turnaround time for student scores.

Merging the feedback from students and faculty leads to a comprehensive internal review of assessment practices. This data can be used to implement improvements to our practices and ensure that we are effectively assessing student performance. The next step includes implementing the changes and assessing them again to determine the net effect of the changes. This becomes an annual process as part of our assessment cycle.

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Sarah Zahl

Sarah B. Zahl, Ph.D., is the Director of Educational Assessment at the Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Zahl earned her Ph.D. and M.S. in Higher Education from Indiana University and a B.S. degree in Journalism from Butler University. She has nine years of experience in academic and student affairs in higher education. In addition to her administrative roles, she has taught courses in Education, Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods, and College Teaching and Learning. Dr. Zahl’s academic interests include competency based assessment, mapping the curriculum, and tracking student success factors during graduate study.

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