Methods of Assessment

by Cassie Morton

Performance Based Assessment

Faculty construct learning situations in which they can observe student performance and judge that performance on the basis of specified criteria. Faculty have defined development levels in each of the abilities students are expected to achieve. These should involve real-life contexts and could be simulations or problems gathered from the community at large. 

Student Self-assessment

image of a grading sheet One of the most powerful outcomes college classes can have for students is to help them learn how to assess and take responsibility for their own learning. If we believe in the necessity and thrill of lifelong learning, we must all take responsibility for helping students understand their own learning process.


Student Portfolios

image of a portfolio Well known in the fields of art, photography and architecture, portfolios are working their way into the mainstream of academia. High schools are now requiring them for graduation and our colleges will soon be recognizing them in the course of admissions and matriculation.  Portfolios provide students the opportunity to demonstrate either an evolution of their learning or their best works to demonstrate learning of the course objectives. Along with student self-assessment, portfolios are excellent tools for students to reflect on their own learning process. 

Assessing Group Work

one person showing work to two people Teams have replaced individuals as the standard unit in the workplace. The SCANS Report and many other documents related to today’s basic workplace skills, list team work as one of the most important skills people need to function in today’s workplace. We also know that teamwork tends to be active rather than passive and is conducive to more powerful learning.

Teamwork can be described in various ways: collaborative learning, cooperative learning, group work, and work teams. The first two, cooperative and collaborative learning, are more strategies to enhance learning. Group exercises or spontaneous problem solving activities are typical for these two.  As more long-term and meaty problems or projects are assigned to groups or work teams, the group process becomes another element in the students’ learning and requires its own assessment. Teamwork can be graded on the joint product the group has done, and should also include students’ evaluations of each others' contributions to the project. Some faculty have difficulty grading group work because they are challenged by assessing anything in their course except content knowledge. Faculty who emphasize the importance of team work by grading it find their students contribute more to their group assignments.

Other Alternative Assignments/Assessments

Consider allowing students to choose from a list of alternative assignments, each with assigned points taking into account the educational and motivational value and difficulty. Some possible activities:

  1. Engaging in field experience, either such as an internship or a service learning project
  2. Serving on a discussion panel
  3. Keeping a journal of course-related ideas
  4. Creating instructional materials for the course (such as study guides, exam questions, or lab project)
  5. Create an instructional manual
  6. Letter to the editor
  7. Flowchart
  8. Plan for conducting a project
  9. Research proposal to a granting agency
  10. Summary or abstract