The Next Step in Student Assessment

Dr. W. Allen Richman, Interim Dean of Planning, Assessment and Institutional Research, Prince George’s Community College
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Dr. W. Allen Richman, Interim Dean of Planning, Assessment and Institutional Research, Prince George’s Community College

There will never be one tool or method that is the most effective. What will always be the most effective is having a range of tools. Student must know their content, its vocabulary, theories, etc. Thus early coursework is more likely to be assessed through examinations and writing. The next step is to have students apply that knowledge to novel situations, collaborate with others to solve problems, communicate to others what was done and why, and describe the outcome. This will require the use of rubrics and checklists to measure student performance.

A simple example of this is that students must first know appropriate safety procedures in their biology or other lab science course. Thus, the student might first be tested via multiple choices, or other tests to evaluate that knowledge. But knowing this information is not a demonstration of the student’s ability. The next measurement should be a rubric or checklist that evaluates how the student is performing in the lab. This assessment technique is measuring the student’s application of the safety techniques he/she read about and demonstrated on the written exam. Finally, part of this performance evaluation could be focused on not only how well the student is following safety procedures for themselves, but how well the student is able to maintain safety for the two to three person group that is working in the lab.

  ​We use Apperson high speed scanners and DataLink Connect software to develop answer keys connected to learning outcomes   

This single course example is maybe too much measurement for a single course, but this same progression of measurements could be applied to a student across his/her program, and it is this progression that is the best method. It is important to always examine the student’s performance at all levels. It is almost always the case that early performance is indicative of later performance. In this simple example, students who score low on their knowledge in say “eye protection/safety” will be the students who will not be able to demonstrate proper eye protection safety when confronted with it in the lab. So to be effective we must measure using multiple techniques at the student level so we can track performance over time, and be vigilant in monitoring student performance so that we can “fill-in” any gaps before they lead to later performance gaps.

At PGCC, we use Apperson high speed scanners and DataLink Connect software. These tools allow our instructors to scan in paper exams and create data reports. We use the software to develop answer keys connected to learning outcomes. This allows the college to see how students are performing and adjust courses as needed.

As colleges and universities seek to implement effective assessment tools to measure student outcomes, here are some of the key points to consider: accessibility, immediacy, sharing capabilities, and analysis. Colleges and universities will benefit most from assessment tools and technology that is cloud-based can be mapped to outcomes, and that allow immediate access and analysis of test data.

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