WikiEdProfessional eLearning Guidebook/Assessment, feedback, and e-moderation/Assessing Learning Outcomes/Best assessment practices

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Best assessment practices

Principles of best practices in the assessment of learning outcomes are not hard to find. The American Association of Higher Education has sponsored the development of a set of these that are available from the Web ( See also a paper by Linda Suskie on the topic of fair assessment practices for students ( The following are a selection of sound assessment practices drawn from these sources.

  1. Assessment of learning achievement must be grounded in sound educational principles. Assessment should not be considered as an end in itself. It should be seen as an effective instrument for learning improvement, and especially because students give it so much attention. Its effective use embodies the kind of learning we value for our students. These educational principles should drive not only what we assess but also how we assess. When issues about educational principles, goals and values are overlooked, assessment becomes an exercise in measuring what is easy, rather than a process of improving learning.
  2. Assessment is most effective when it reflects an understanding of learning as multidimensional, integrated, and revealed through performance over time. Learning is clearly a very complex process. It entails not only the development of knowledge and understanding in a given domain, but what learners can do with that knowledge and understanding. It also involves the development of desirable values, attitudes, and behaviors which affect academic success and performance outside the formal educational setting. Assessment should reflect these understandings by employing a diverse array of methods, including those that call for actual performance, over time so as to reveal change, growth, and increasing degrees of integration of what has been learned and taught.
  3. Assessment works well when, what it seeks to improve learning and when its intentions are transparent. Assessment of learning achievement is a goal-oriented process. It entails comparing actual performance and behavior with intended learning outcomes and expectations. Clear, shared and realistic goals are the pre-requisites for focused and useful assessment practices.
  4. Assessment requires attention to the achievement of learning outcomes as well as the experiences that led to those outcomes. Teachers and students tend to place a great deal more emphasis on measures of the achievement of learning outcomes. However, to improve learning outcomes, we need to know something about students’ experiences along the way. Certain assessment practices such as the use of learning logs and portfolios, for instance, can help us understand which students learn best under what conditions.
  5. Assessment works best when it is continuous. Learning improvement is best supported when assessment comprises a series of activities performed over the duration of study. This may mean tracking the progress of individual students or of cohorts of students and providing them with the necessary feedback and guidance.

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  • What are the challenges for the teachers in trying to achieve these goals?
  • How can information and communications technology help achieve these outcomes?

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Tell us a story

  • Can you relate an experience that reflected any one or more of the foregoing principles with or without the use of technology? What were the challenges encountered?