Assessment of student learning can enhance the quality of educational reforms.

What is a desirable education? | assessment's role | strategic options | tactical suggestions | recognizing learning | sources

"Knowledge without thinking is useless; thinking without knowledge is dangerous."

said Kung Fu Tzu.


Education is a deliberate and reflective extension of the art of conversation and written discourse to encompass reliable content. In that sense real learning only takes place when trust persists and discourse dwells.

educationEffective education should make visible the means by which the conversing participants in any discourse can improve by making judgments based on doing activities that restate arguments, create analogies, and provide evidence for distinguishing factual from fictional information.

In some deeper sense, the educated conversation enables one to enter into a dialogue where the transfer of concepts is enabled from one context to divergent or complementary contexts depending on the case studies being analyzed, or the variety of evidence presented.

The conversation moves in an identifiable direction based on the demonstrated skills and thoughtful listening of the participants.

What is a desirable education? | assessment's role | strategic options | tactical suggestions | recognizing learning


What is assessment's role in learning?

Doing "pervasive assessment is a necessary condition for providing appropriate and timely" response "to students." This approach can be used to encourage, if not achieve, individual student's exceeding their previous levels of performance with respect to demonstrating critical reading, reflective thinking, ethical reasoning, effective written and oral communication," and then using this newly acquired knowledge exhibit ways to evaluate competing solutions to recurring social problems.

From the perspective of institutional level performance in which classroom engagement exists:

"The Measuring Quality Inventory includes four categories: assessment instruments; software tools and platforms; benchmarking systems and other extant data resources; and assessment initiatives, collaborations, and custom services."

© 2012 The Measuring Quality Inventory, Victor M. H. Borden and Brandi Kernel. ,  Association for Institutional Research, the American Council on Education Center for Policy Analysis, and the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.

What is a desirable education? | assessment's role | strategic options | tactical suggestions | recognizing learning


Some strategic options

Learning impact statements:
That "have specified the anticipated effects of the proposed additions or changes on the quantity and quality of student learning—and have provided evidence to support their proposal."

Todd Bartlett of Boston University remind's readers that "Remember the impact statement equation: What + How + Why = Impact. " ("Developing Powerful Impact Statements . . . " October 10, 2013). And he adds that such statements are "a way for you to document your work performance and highlights your impact on" any participant's learning outcomes.

Students can be part of this "impact process" in a deeply effective manner. Have participants describe in writing a significant change in their understanding of a matter of consequence due to what they are or have learned analyzing the differences in their assumptions, biases, or prejudices prior to and after completing assigned work.

Dr. Connie Moss, Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit.

Means of assessment and expected standards have been clearly "communicated to students, through syllabi, descriptions of assignments, etc., what they are expected to learn and the standards against which their achievement of those outcomes will be measured and reported."

Assessments "across courses, are making coherent, purposeful decisions about academic objectives."

Do routinely "assess the quality and quantity of student learning in learning experiences expected to contribute to the institution’s stated learning goals, inside and outside the classroom, in both formative and summative ways. Cumulative assessments of student learning in general education (e.g., portfolio assessment, comprehensive exams), . . . "

What is a desirable education? | assessment's role | strategic options | tactical suggestions | recognizing learning

Some responsive means to assess learning in the course:

• Background exploration. (a. b. c. d.)

• Rapid Assessment Tasks.

Free writing.

• Minute Essay.

Concept generation and analysis.

• Analogy recognition and restatement.

Metaphor creation & interpretation.

Writing evaluation and assessment.

Graphic description exercise, verbally conveying the design frame, focus details, and placement of informative images.

• Six minute oral argument presentation with supporting graphics.

Criteria recognition and application exercise.

    1. Do clarify a restated thought
    2. Make a short and long description of the same evidence
    3. Do inform another student or team about facts in a case
    4. Make a list of evidence from multiple authors and organize the evidence from most to least convincing
    5. Summarize an argument from the assigned readings, then judge its rhetorical character.

* Writing coherence exercise.

* Interviews as a means of acquiring attitudes, affect, and understanding.

* Create an argument drawing on conflicting evidence from assigned authors that reveals an underlying paradox or ambiguity with respect to the data and explain how you know that your decision is a logical contradiction.

* Have participants demonstrate in a case or significant focus area of society the difference between a problem that can be solved and a predicament that cannot be solved.

What is a desirable education? | assessment's role | strategic options | tactical suggestions | recognizing learning

If more profound learning that carries over from term to term is desirable, how do we know when it is happening?

When is education a rigourous undertaking of discovering what we do not know?

Some professors have suggested that deeper learning occurs:

"When students elevate their own expectations."

"When participants put contributions to the community ahead of their own needs to maintain the status quo."

"When participants take steps to nourish their curiosity and practice with a desire to continue learning."

"When participants operate ethically, safely, independently and reliably when describing how to evaluate competing ways to solve problems."

"When instructors convey clearly the different criteria distinguishing adequate from exceptional performance levels in the ongoing conversation and discourse so that participants may reveal new or unanticipated insights."


What is a desirable education? | assessment's role | strategic options | tactical suggestions | recognizing learning | sources


Texas A & M University: "Measurable Learning Outcomes."

Carnegie Mellon University: Aligning assessment measures to Blooms' Taxonomy

AIR, Association for Institutional Research.


The above checked assessment ideas originally appeared in or were adapted from:

"We’re Losing Our Minds: Rethinking American Higher Education", by R. P. Keeling and R. H. Hersh, 2012, New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

My special thanks to Academic Impressions™. "Engaging Faculty in Student Learning Assessment." Cambridge, Mass.: July 21-23, 2014. Also to the many conference participants for these approaches to learning outcomes and student performance evaluations.

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