Assessment occurs at many levels throughout the college. We have goals for student learning at the college level, program level, course level, and section level. We have goals for particular classroom activities and we have goals for out-of-class experiences. Faculty members are probably most familiar with assessment that takes place at the section level, within a particular classroom of students. For example, a faculty member might want students to learn a new concept for a particular class day. At this level, assessment might include a number of activities, including:
- observing students’ nonverbal behavior
- asking students questions during class
- assigning an individual or group activity
- developing test or quiz questions about the new concept
- surveying students’ level of understanding
- soliciting questions from students
- using a classroom assessment technique (CAT) to measure understanding
These are great forms of assessment and they will give the faculty member important feedback about that day’s goal for this group of students. However, this level of assessment will not tell us about how students do in the course, as a whole (we only have information from one section on one day), nor how students do in their programs. To assess our progress at these levels, we must work more collectively to find out how our students are doing as they progress through courses, through their programs, and through the college.
The levels of assessment are depicted in the diagram below. Each level represents a different level of analysis, with a different set of goals. But it is important to remember that these different sets of goals are interrelated with overlapping purposes connected to the college mission.
Figure 1: The Levels of Assessment
The most general level of learning goals exists at the college level. These goals are directly related to the college mission and vision statements and should be reflected in everything the college does (from classes and courses to athletics, food service, and facilities maintenance). Program-level goals define learning outcomes for students who complete an academic program. Course-level goals (or learner outcomes) define our expectations for what students learn by completing a particular course, regardless of who is teaching the course. Class-level goals are the most specific. These goals reflect our expectations for a specific group of students participating in a particular class experience during a specific time frame.
The class level is listed as the “lowest level,” because it is the most basic level of analysis. In terms of action, however, this level is very important, because this is where direct faculty-student interaction takes place. This faculty-student interaction should serve goals at each level of analysis, including:
- the learning goals for a particular section as defined in the syllabus
- the learning goals for the course as defined in the common course outline
- the learning goals for the programs linked to a particular course
- the learning goals for the college as a whole as defined in our Guiding Principles
Thankfully, we are not aiming to measure every goal in every section of every course all of the time because that would be unrealistic. A reasonable assessment program relies on samples of potential assessment data, collected at strategic points, so that we end up with a reliable snapshot of each of our programs on a regular basis.
To illustrate the levels of assessment, examples of assessment are given in two tables below. The first table shows how goals are documented at each level and illustrates how assessments can be planned to serve goals at more than one level of analysis.
Table 1—One Assessment over Four Levels of Analysis
|Section Level||Syllabus||ENGL 1121-02 students, taught by Professor Simpson, write an essay on popular culture in America, which Professor Simpson has identified as a theme for this section, this semester.|
|Course Level||Common Course Outline||Members of the English faculty share copies of student essays to determine whether course outcomes were met.|
|Program Level||Program Goals||Faculty members who teach courses listed in given goal score essays using a rubric designed to measure that specific goal or competency.|
|College Level||Guiding Principles||Faculty members score essays using a rubric designed to measure the Guiding Principle “Effective Communication.”|
The second table lists a few more examples of types of assessments that could be performed at various levels of analysis. Some of these examples are based on assessments actually performed at Anoka-Ramsey, while others are hypothetical. This list of examples is not meant to be exhaustive because there are countless ways to assess students and some of the best are original and creative.
Table 2—Examples of Assessment at Four Levels of Analysis