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Glossary of Terms


The systematic collection, review, and use of information about educational programs undertaken for the purpose of improving student learning and development. (Palomba & Banta, 1999)

An ongoing process aimed at understanding and improving student learning. It involves making our expectations explicit and public; setting appropriate criteria and standards for learning quality; systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well performance matches those expectations and standards; and using the resulting information to document, explain, and improve performance. (Angelo, 1995)

The systematic collection of information about student learning, using the time, knowledge, expertise, and resources available, in order to inform decisions about how to improve learning. (Walvoord, 2004)

Classroom Assessment:

Involves students and teachers in the continuous monitoring of students’ learning; provides faculty with feedback about their effectiveness as teachers, and it gives students a measure of their progress as learners.

An approach designed to help teachers find out what students are learning in the classroom and how well they are learning it. This approach is learner-centered, teacher-directed, mutually beneficial, formative, context-specific, ongoing, and firmly rooted in good practice. (Angelo & Cross, 1993)

Direct Assessment:

Measure of student learning that include performance assessments that require students to demonstrate their competence in one or more skills. (Banta & Palomba, 2015)

Prompts students to represent or demonstrate their learning or produce work so that observers can assess how well students’ work or responses fit institution or program-level expectations. (Maki, 2010)

Tangible, visible, self-explanatory, and compelling evidence of exactly what students have and have not learned. (Suskie, 2009)

Examples of such performances might include test or exam results, projects, written assignments, oral presentations, simulations, logs, portfolios, capstone experiences, and so on.

Embedded Assessment:

Program, general education, or institutional assessments that are embedded into course work. In other words, they are course assessments that do double duty, providing information not only on what students have learned in the course but also on their progress in achieving program or institutional goals. (Banta & Palomba, 2015)

Formative Assessment:

Measures that include performance reviews accompanied by feedback. (Banta & Palomba, 2015)

Those assessments undertaken while student learning is taking place rather than at the end of a course or program. (Suskie, 2009)

Captures students’ progress toward institution or program-level outcomes based on applying agreed upon criteria and standards of judgment to student work at chronological times or milestones in their learning journey. (Maki, 2010)

Indirect Assessment:

Methods that ask students to reflect on what they have learned and experienced rather than to demonstrate their knowledge and skills, providing proxy information about student learning. (Banta & Palomba, 2015)

Measures that capture students’ perceptions of their learning, such as the array of services, programs, and educational opportunities offered in the co-curriculum. By themselves, indirect methods provide insufficient evidence about students’ actual performance levels: students may underestimate or overestimate their actual performance levels. Yet patterns of students’ perceptions, interpretations, and responses are important to analyze and interpret along with results of direct methods. (Maki, 2010)

Proxy signs that students are probably learning. (Suskie, 2009)

Examples of indirect measures are course grades, student ratings of their skills and knowledge, questionnaires, surveys, interviews, focus groups, and so on.

Learning Outcomes:

Statements of the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits of mind that students should have and take with them when they successfully complete a course or program. (Suskie, 2010)

Outcomes are sometimes treated as synonymous with objectives though objectives are usually more general statements.

Program Assessment

An academic program should be integrated and greater than the sum of its parts—that is, more than a collection of courses—it may have goals and assessment that are broader than those of its courses. (Suskie, 2009)

Measuring student achievement of integrating learning is the aim of program assessment.

Summative Assessment:

Captures students’ achievement at the end of their program of study in their undergraduate or graduate education based on applying agreed-upon criteria and standards of judgment. (Maki, 2010)



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