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Assessment Glossary

Analytic Scoring: A type of rubric scoring that separates the whole into categoires of criteria that are examined one at a time. Student writing, for example, might be scored on the basis of grammar, organization, and clarity of ideas. An analytic scale is useful when there are several dimensions on which the piece of work will be evaluated.

Assessment: A careful examination of patterns in student learning over time that is used to plan for future instruction or used to modify instructional practices. It is separate and distinct from Student Evaluation (in which students are assigned grades) and from Faculty Evaluation (in which faculty professional performance is evaluated for administrative purposes.

Assessment Method: The method used to measure student performance of SLOs on assessment tasks against established benchmarks. Examples of assessment methods include rubrics and embedded questions. It is not the instrument used to administer the assessment, such as an exam or an assignment.

Assessment Plan: The overall plan for assessing student SLOs at a course or program level. The Assessment Plan Form (APF) is the document used to record this plan. The APF is a process document which needs to be revised and reveiwed regularly by faculty if it is to be meaningful and useful.

Assessment Task: A specific assignment, product, or performance which is completed by all students in a particular course or program, and which is evaluated and assessed using the same methods by all instructors. Its purpose is to assesss whether students have achieved benchmarks set for specific SLOs.

Authentic Assessment:  Assessment which involves students in the process.  For example, rubric-based assessment is most authentic when students are given the rubric in advance, and may be actively involved in its creation and revision.  It is less authentic when students are unaware of the criteria upon which they will be assessed.

Benchmark:  A standard of performance for a specific SLO that is considered acceptable.  A student’s reaching a benchmark implies that the student has met the SLO in a manner appropriate to the level of instruction and is adequately prepared for subsequent instruction.

Capstone Project or Capstone Experience:  A culminating academic event for all students in a given course of studies, usually undertaken in the last semester of courses in their program.  Capstone projects are intended to give students the opportunity to organize and synthesize the knowledge and skills developed throughout their academic program, and to demonstrate their ability to apply this learning in relevant and meaningful ways.  As a type of assessment task, capstone projects can take various forms, including portfolios, performances, and job placement experiences.  (See Assessment Task, Portfolio Assessment and Performance-Based Assessment.)

Closed-Response Questions:  Questions for which a correct answer is set within narrow guidelines.  For example, multiple choice questions, calculation questions, and fill-in-the-blank questions are all closed-response.

Criteria:  The aspects of performance that are considered in evaluating or assessing that performance.  For example, completeness might be one criterion for a particular assessment.  Each criterion is accompanied by descriptors which specify levels of performance within that criterion.  (See Descriptors.)

Data:  For purposes of assessment, data is quantitative information regarding student achievement of SLOs.  On the Assessment Plan Form, you will need to summarize the data and interpret the data.  Summary involves stating the data clearly.  Interpretation involves examining possible reasons and causes for observed trends in the data.

Descriptors:  A set of signs or qualities used to describe levels of performance within a given assessment criterion.  Descriptors provide a scale against which a performance or product can be evaluated and assessed.  For example, the criterion of completeness might be described in four levels:  fully complete, missing no more than one required section, missing two or more required sections, and no required sections are discernable.  Descriptors allow assessment to include clear guidelines for what is and is not valued in student work.  They provide a means for faculty to empirically describe their professional value judgments about the benchmarks established for particular student learning outcomes, and about desirable and undesirable characteristics of student work.

Direct Assessment:  Assessment which is performed by and at the college—usually by a course instructor.  In some contexts, peer evaluation can also be considered a form of direct assessment. (See Peer Evaluation.)

Embedded Questions:  Questions used as an assessment for a particular SLO in all sections of a particular course.  For example, all sections of Accounting 001 could include on the final exam a specific question or set of questions regarding balancing assets and deficits.  Student responses to this question or question set would then serve as a means of assessing student achievement of the course SLO addressing balancing assets and deficits. 

Evaluation (Faculty Evaluation):  Faculty evaluation is a process of administrative review and consultation with faculty concerning their performance in the faculty role.  It is considered in faculty contract renewals, tenure applications, and applications for promotion.  The feedback and insights developed through outcomes assessment are not an appropriate foundation for faculty evaluation.

Evaluation (Student Evaluation):  See Grading.

Formative Assessment:  Observations which allow faculty to determine the degree to which students are able to perform a given learning task, and which identifies any part of the task that the student does not know or is unable to do.  An example of formative assessment would be using peer evaluation in a student writing workshop as a means for students to improve their learning and their writing; this formative process would also provide information to the instructor regarding gaps in student learning.  Formative assessment is used to suggest courses of action for improved teaching and learning. (See Peer Evaluation and Summative Assessment.)

Grading (Student Evaluation):  The process through which faculty review and evaluate student achievement in courses and programs.  Used as a basis for assigning grades and for determining student promotion and graduation.

Holistic Scoring:  A scoring process in which a score is based on an overall impression of a finished product in comparison to an agreed-upon standard for that task.

Indirect Assessment:  Assessment which is performed by agents outside the college—such as employers, work experience supervisors, and external accreditation agencies.

Open-Response Questions:  Questions on assignments or testing instruments which require written answers and for which a range of acceptable responses is possible.  Examples would include essay and short answer questions, or mathematical problems which could be solved in more than one manner and which require students to “show their work.”

Peer Evaluation:  Peer evaluation is evaluation of students by other students, creating opportunities for students to give and receive constructive feedback.  It may be used in both formative and summative ways.   It encourages student autonomy and fosters the development of critical thinking skills. Peer evaluation can be used as part of the learning process, for evaluation (grading), and as an innovative form of assessment.  Peer evaluation aims to improve the quality of learning and empower learners by involving students not only in the process of their work, but also in making judgments about student work.  Peer evaluation can be used to involve students in the setting of criteria and the selection of evidence of achievement. (See Formative Assessment, Grading, and Summative Assessment.)

Performance-Based Assessments:  Assessment tasks which require students to apply what they have learned in the performance of a task in a realistic situation.  Students are asked to demonstrate the behavior which the learning is intended to produce.  This type of assessment is the one most frequently used in trades, technical, and career programs, and also plays an important role in physical education, laboratory work, practicums, and in many of the fine and performing arts.

Portfolio Assessment:  A form of direct assessment.  A portfolio is a representative collection of student work, including some evidence that the student has evaluated the quality of his or her own work, often in the form of a self assessment.  The work may be from different stages of development during a course or over a series of courses.  Portfolios may be assessed in a variety of ways.  Each piece may be individually scored using a rubric, or the portfolio might be assessed merely for the presence of required pieces, or a holistic scoring process might be used and an assessment made on the basis of an overall impression of the student's collected work.  It is important that the same established criteria for assessment are used by both faculty and students in assessing student progress and achievement of objectives. (See Self Assessment)

Rubric:  Some of the definitions of rubric are contradictory. In general a rubric is a scoring guide used in subjective assessments.  This set of scoring guidelines can be used to evaluate and to assess students’ work.  Rubrics make expected qualities of performance explicit through definition and description, and assign scores, points, or ratings to various levels of performance.  Analytic rubrics are the most common type of rubric, composed of several criteria with descriptors for levels of performance for each criterion. (See Analytic Scoring, Criteria, and Descriptors.)

Self Assessment:  Assessment which is performed by the students regarding the quality of their own work and / or their achievement of SLO benchmarks.

Student Learning Outcome (SLO):  What students will be able to actually do upon completion of the course or program.  SLOs are more complex than isolated skills and are met through the completion of assessment tasks.  Kaua‘i Community College has campus-level SLOs, program-level SLOs, and course-level SLOs which are all inter-related.  Program-level SLOs reflect the SLOs of the courses which comprise the program, and also are aligned with the campus-level SLOs.  This alignment allows programs to choose to designate specific assessments of course-level SLOs in required courses to perform double-duty as program-level assessments as well.  For example, since all Liberal Arts students must complete English 100, a course-level assessment in English 100 could conceivably be designated to double as a program-level assessment for the A.A. Degree.

Summative Assessment:  Evaluation at the conclusion of a unit, course, or program to determine or judge levels of student learning and achievement of desired student learning outcomes.  Summative assessment represents the culmination of a teaching/learning process for a unit, subject, or program of study.  It is often performed in conjunction with final examinations, exit examinations, exit interviews, and capstone projects.  An example of summative assessment would be a group assessment of writing samples from all students completing a given program in a particular academic year.  (See Formative Assessment.)