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Assessment and Accountability: Assessment - Higher Ed

Resource on K-16 assessment and accountability practices.


Bresciani, M. J. (2013). Afterword: Considerations for Future Practice of Assessment and Accountability. New Directions For Student Services, 2013(142), 99-105. doi:10.1002/ss.20053

Hernández, R. (2012). Does continuous assessment in higher education support student learning?. Higher Education, 64(4), 489-502.

Webber, K. (2012). The Use of Learner-Centered Assessment in US Colleges and Universities. Research In Higher Education, 53(2), 201-228.

Complexity of Higher Ed Assessment

   Assessment in higher education is similar to that in K-12 with one key difference...the tests are not standardized but rather tailored to the learning objective(s) established as the focus for the course. The tests are designed by the departments and the instructors who teach the courses as either formative assessments or summative assessments. Bresciani (2013) states that the ideal outcome is that the performance indicator measurements will match with the evidence of student learning (tests, assignments, or other indicator).

   A point of disagreement about assessment in higher education is whether the assessment is of comprehension of factual knowledge or evidence that the student has learned the content and can apply it (Webber, 2012, p. 201). The shift in higher education is from learning facts in a lecture centered enviroment to student centered learning but the difficulty lies in how to assess for learning in this context. Webber (2012) conducted a study to determine the extent of learner-centered instruction in today's universities and she found that resistance is on the decline as more colleges tie the process to the institution's effectiveness plan (p. 223).

   An example, at Lamar we are accredited by SACS and there is a review of accreditation every ten years. We have a a QEP that runs for five years to help meet insitutional effectiveness goals. The first one was called ACES Active and Collaborative Engagement for Students and faculty instituted the ACES practices in their classes for two successive semsters and reported on the progress. 

   Another example is the core curriculum that went into effect this Fall semester for all incoming freshman. The core curriculum was divided into six component areas with set credit hours for each. The existing core was reduced from 48 hours to 42 with strict guidelines. All departments who sought to have a class in the core had to include the following when proposing a new course:

  • Include the relevant Student Learning Objectives (3 to 4)
  • Related measures for each of the objectives
  • Source of Evidence
  • Target for each measure
  • See example under Assessment Links 

Once the course was accepted into the core an Assessment Coordinator was assigned to that department who will submit the report in using data from the classes taught during the Fall or the Spring semester.