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Belmont University | Belief in Something Greater

Choosing the Right Assessment Methods

There should be a direct correlation between the outcome you are working toward and the way in which you will measure your progress regarding that outcome. For instance, if you are trying to increase the on-campus clients your unit serves, you wouldn't measure that by  assessing how many jobs you finish on time. While the information you will gain from this measure can be meaningful, it doesn't directly address the scope of your on-campus client base. In the same way, on the academic side, you wouldn't assess a critical thinking outcome with a measure that only reveals how well your students can memorize key information. The measure should suit the outcome directly.

Take time to discuss your intended outcomes and how you can best judge their progress. It is usually a good idea to use a combination of direct and indirect measures.  However, direct measures are considered primary and carry a greater weight in determining accomplishment of outcomes - whether student learning outcomes or operational outcomes.

Direct Measures
Indirect Measures

Student Learning Outcomes

Direct Measures provide evidence collected directly
from the subject of your assessment regarding
their abilities and knowledge and are considered
best for measuring levels of achievement of
student learning.  
Examples include:

Comprehensive Exams
Essay Test Question 
 Research papers, projects, presentations, or performances evaluated using a standard rubric
Field Experience Supervisor Evaluations 

Student Learning Outcomes

Indirect measures provide a less concrete view of
student learning based on attitudes, perceptions,
feelings, values, etc. Indirect measures help
substantiate student learning, but do not directly
assess it.
Examples include:

Survey Responses - Self-Assessed Gains
Retention and Graduation Rates
Placement Rates
Course Grades
Course Evaluations

Operational Outcomes

Direct Measures in non-academic areas are designed
to measure the effectiveness of services,
programs, initiatives, etc. in areas with outcomes not related to student learning.
Examples include:

Quantitative Reports on Accuracy and/or Timeliness
Number of Individuals Served
Participation Numbers and Percentages
Number of Complaints Received Relative to 
Total Population Served


Operational Outcomes

Indirect Measures for operational outcomes
 collect findings about attitudes, perceptions,
feelings, values, etc. about services provided orexperiences encountered. 
Examples include:

Survey Responses - Satisfaction
Survey Responses - Impact Ratings
Social Media Posts

Your measures may already be in place in your daily processes or your established curriculum. In using these existing activities as key measures, however, you give them a different function.

For academic assessmment, an existing assignment might be used, but rather than grading it, you will use some kind of rubric or other mechanism to use the assignment to assess the students' progress on this particular outcome. These are different functions.

For an operations unit, you might use an existing report, but rather than simply printing the current iteration, you might use it in a more longitudinal way to find trends that will inform your intended outcome. 


Writing Effective Outcome Statements

Reporting Your Results

Qualitative Data: Coding for Organization

Quantitative Data: Presenting Findings Visually