A Legacy of W.K. Kellogg

When and How to Assess Your Course

You can assess learning over the course of the term, or at a key point in time in the class.

The following questionnaire from UMass Amherst can help you decide:

  1. Am I trying to gauge student learning of class content in general?
  2. Do I care about the knowledge students bring into the classroom with them at the start of the term compared to the learning they will take away with them at the end?
  3. Does the extent of progress or improvement over a period of days or weeks matter?
  4. Do I want to assess the level of students' reflective thinking about a particular reading assignment?
  5. Am I interested in specific areas of learning that I have identified as particularly relevant or important?
  6. Am I concerned about how well students understand a complicated lecture?

If you answered "Yes" on the first three questions, plan on an assessment method that gauges student learning over time. If you answered "Yes" on the last three questions, assess student learning at a key point in time.

When to assess What general questions can be answered at this time What data addresses these questions
Before the course
  • Are learning outcomes clear, measurable, and suitable?
  • Are course requirements, expectations, and policies clear, fair, and in line with general departmental practices?
  • Is the course content well-organized?
  • Are course activities well-organized?
  • Is it clear what students need to do to succeed?
  • Are course activities (including graded ones) aligned with learning outcomes?
  • Are criteria for success on assignments clear and available to students?
  • Are course activities well-spaced for both you and students?
  • Is the tone of the course welcoming and encouraging, but honest?
  • Are all technologies needed for the course identified, available to students, and well-supported on campus or by you?

The Quality Matters rubric is a good guide for gathering data to answer "before" questions. Data sources may include:

  • Syllabus
  • Content in Blackboard
  • Student assignment samples from previous classes
  • Feedback from colleagues based on materials you provide
  • The expanded course outline
  • Previous student comments
Mid-course
  • Are particular assignments or activities actually helping students to achieve particular learning outcomes?
  • If you tried something new, did it help students to achieve the targeted learning outcome?
  • Are you and students able to keep up with the workload?
  • Do the course content and activities remain well-organized and clear?
  • Are students putting in effective time and effort to succeed in the course?
  • Are there specific things that could easily be changed at this point that would help students to succeed better?
  • Selected aspects of grading rubrics
  • Student performance on particular problems or activities
  • Pre-post test activities
  • Self-reports by students (e.g. minute papers)
  • Carefully designed surveys of students
  • Mid-quarter “stop-start-continue” activity or mid-quarter visit and interview by a colleague (NOT official peer review)
  • Your own reflections
  • Classroom Assessment activities
After the course
  • Did the course help students to achieve particular learning outcomes?
  • (Long after the course, if applicable) Did students succeed well in the following course? If not, why not?
  • If you tried something new, did it help students to achieve the targeted learning outcome?
  • Were you and students able to keep up with the workload?
  • Are there specific things that might be changed for next time to help students succeed better?
  • Selected aspects of grading rubrics and other graded materials
  • Student performance on particular problems or activities
  • Self-reports by students
  • Carefully designed end-of-course surveys
  • Your own reflections
  • Assessment data from follow-on courses