How to assess student learning outcomes is a question that needs to be answered well. Assessments of learning outcomes depend on the type of learning students undergo. For example, evaluating students’ learning in an academic course and the same in a vocational training can be totally different. In the first case, the students could be expected to sit for an exam or even conduct a research on a relevant topic. However, students of a training course are expected to demonstrate their skills by performing in a practical assessment session. Thus, it is clear that an assessment of knowledge of a certain discipline and that of in relation to skill based learning take two different pathways. As well,there are criteria that assess the overall standards of a learning process and that of in relation to individual knowledge and skills of students. These are known as indirect and direct measures respectively.
Assessing Student Learning Outcomes: Examples for Assessment Types
Post tests/exams (oral, written), assignments based on theoretical understanding (a report on a case study), observations of a given task (laboratory practicals, performing surgeries in Medicine), Assessment of students’ explaining/logical reasoning of theory (presentations, creative demonstrations), thesis writing, designing of innovative models based on theoretical understanding could be brought to attention as examples for modes of assessment in learning. It is again important to keep in mind the type of assessment varies in relation to the category of learning, theory, practical skills, etc.
Indirect and Direct Measures to Assess Student Learning Outcomes
Indirect measures of learning outcomes consider the effectiveness of a learning process as a whole including its applicability in the professional world. Also, it takes accounts of statistical details alumni, the career prospects available for students, the number of research components published annually, retention and graduation rates and the postgraduate opportunities the course lead into. These measures are important to evaluate the quantitative and qualitative outcomes of a learning process that a set of learners undergo in an institution. However, indirect measures do not assess the specific learnings of students and the tasks they are capable of performing as a result.
Direct measures, on the other hand , evaluate the knowledge and skills students gained over a period. Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) is one such standardized test used in America that belongs to this direct measures category. The CLA is designed to measure critical thinking, analytic reasoning, problem solving, and written communication skills. The creators of the test explains the focus of assessment in CLA as “the collective and cumulative result of what takes place or does not take place over the four to six years of undergraduate education in and out of the classroom”. Thus, it is clear the test does not aim at evaluating the subject related knowledge in terms of each degree course. The Force Concept Inventory, on the other hand, is a test drafted to assess students’ understanding in problem solving in the field of Physics.
To summarize, there are a variety of testing methods available in education to evaluate students’ learning outcomes. They vary depending on the mode of learning students undergo. Indirect and direct measures are two key mechanisms used in the field of education to assess standards and statistics related to a learning process and students’ knowledge, skills respectively.
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