Assessment and its Importance
Assessment of student academic achievement is the process of evaluating
whether students are learning what we say they are learning. More
specifically, assessment is the systematic collection, review, and use
of information to increase students' learning and development. Through
a variety of measures, students are assessed to determine whether or not
they are achieving the learning outcomes that faculty have determined for
their courses and programs.
Assessment is important for several reasons:
Assessment results provide qualitative information that helps faculty
determine how they might improve courses and/or programs through changes
in curriculum, teaching methodologies, course materials, or other areas.
When integrated into the planning cycle for curriculum development and
review, assessment results can provide a powerful rationale for securing
support for curricular and other changes.
Assessment may provide comparative data that can give you valuable information
on how well your students are meeting the learning outcomes for your course or
program, or may show how WCC students perform compared to those at similar
An effective assessment program is required by the North Central Association
for continuing accreditation as evidence of the College's efforts toward continuous
improvement of effective teaching and learning.
Most important, assessment is a tool that leads to a continuous cycle of improved
Assessment Committee: Description
The Assessment Committee is advisory to the Vice President for Instruction and the President, and is
involved in setting direction for the college's work in assessment of student learning.
The specific activities of the Assessment Committee involve setting direction
for the College's work in assessment of student learning, which will be a continuation of
some of our past activities/plans as well as the setting and implementation of new directions
to address the shortcomings that NCA cites in resonse to our self-study.
The Assessment Committee meets weekly to take up assessment-related issues that arise. These meetings are
open, and faculty, administration, and staff are encouraged to attend.
The work of the Assessment Committee is closely related to the work of the Curriculum Committee.
Schedule of Meetings
Each Thursday, from September through May
Contact the Office of Curriculum & Assessment for the current location
2:00 to 3:30 pm
Faculty will be notified of any changes to the schedule of meetings.
Assessment Committee: Members
The current members of the Assessment Committee are:
Jim Egan, Dean of Distance Learning
Joy Garrett, Director of Curriculum & Assessment
Joyce Jenkins, Business & Computer Technologies Division
Michelle Garey, Chair, Humanities, Social, & Behavioral Sciences Division
Sherry MacGregor, Math, Science & Health Division
Julie Morrison, Executive Associate to the President
Randy Van Wagnen, Business & Computer Technologies Division
Susan John, Curriculum & Assessment Technician
Agendas and Minutes
The agenda for a meeting is posted to this site on the Friday before the meeting.
If faculty members wish to initiate an item, they should contact the Chair, Rosemary Rader
, at , extension 5077, LA 230R.
The minutes of the Assessment Committee meetings will be posted for review on
the Wednesday following the meeting.
The Assessment Committee agendas and minutes can be accessed by date:
Assessment vs. Grades & Evaluation
Evaluation is a method, which may or may not be graded, of eliciting a performance
or demonstration of knowledge or skills from a student. Grades are the descriptive
faculty evaluation of an individual student's performance in a given course, test,
or assignment. Grades oftentimes incorporate participation, attendance and/or extra
credit, which are not true components of assessment of learning outcomes. Assessment
is the examination of whether students as a whole are achieving the learning outcomes
which have been developed by the department for a course or program. Assessment provides
the "big picture" of whether students are meeting learning objectives.
While grades may not be used as assessment data, certain projects, tests, or
assignments that are given for a grade in a course may be used for assessment
purposes if they are externally evaluated using an appropriate rubric.
Course, Program, & General Education Assessment
Course assessment is the assessment of student learning within a particular
course. A course should be assessed for whether students are achieving the
learning outcomes as stated in the master syllabus for that course. All sections
of a course that are assessed should be assessed for the same learning outcomes and
using the same assessment instrument. Course assessment is often accomplished
through tools such as departmental or other exams, portfolios, or projects. Course
assessment is not the evaluation of a particular section of faculty member.
Courses should be assessed on the same cycle as that for the three-year master
syllabus review. Thus, each course will be assessed at least once every three years.
Each time a master syllabus comes to Curriculum Committee for review (whether for a major
/minor change or for the three-year review), it should be accompanied by the Course
Assessment Report Form showing assessment activity and results.
Program assessment is the assessment of student learning within a particular academic program
leading to a degree or certificate. A program should be assessed for whether students are
achieving the learning outcomes developed by the department that should be stated in the
program approval documents for that program. Program assessment often is done through capstone
experiences, portfolios, graduate or employer surveys, or licensure exams. Program assessment
is not the evaluation of student achievement of learning objectives within courses that are
part of the program, but rather of students' overall achievement of the broad goals of the
academic program (e.g. employment, mastery of certain skills, successful transfer, etc.)
Programs should be assessed every three years.
General Education Assessment
General Education assessment is the assessment of student learning within the curricular areas
meeting the College's general education requirements for a degree: writing, speech, mathematics,
natural science, social and behavioral science, arts and humanities, critical thinking, and computer
information literacy. Because the general education requirement is an institutional requirement that
crosses disciplines, assessment occurs on a broader scale than course or program assessment. The general
education areas are assessed for whether students are achieving the learning outcomes as stated in the
College Catalogue for each area. General education assessment is currently done through standardized
testing (writing, mathematics, and natural science), surveys or prompts (social and behavioral science
and arts and humanities), evaluated speeches (speech), and institutionally developed or administered exams
(critical thinking and computer and information literacy). General education assessment may occur in any
of the courses that meet the general education requirement, and certain institutional assessments may also
take place in courses outside the general educational areas.
General education areas are assessed every other year.
Faculty have ultimate ownership over assessment, and all departments are responsible
for developing/selecting and implementing assessment tools in their area. It is up to
the department chair to determine which individuals will be responsible for specific
assessment assignments for courses and programs. Because multiple faculty are involved in
teaching specific courses or programs, however, it is essential that departments or units
collaborate on assessment activities. Each department also has an assessment liaison who
serves as a resource person and who communicates regularly with the Assessment Steering
Committee on assessment activity, progress and problems. The Assessment Steering Committee
is available to assist in choosing or developing a tool, analyzing data, and providing feedback.
Above all, faculty are responsible for examining the resulting data and using it where appropriate
to validate changes that may be made to improve student learning. If you don't know who your
liaison is you can contact us.
Steps to Developing an Assessment Plan
There are several steps to follow in creating a new or improved assessment plan:
Examine the learning outcomes that have been outlined by the
department for the course or program to be assessed (these should taken
directly from the master syllabus or program approval documents).
Identify those learning outcomes that will be assessed. Rather than
attempting to assess all the learning outcomes on the course syllabus, choose
those that seem most critical to the overall goals of the course which can be
Select your assessment tool(s): methods or instruments for gathering evidence
to show whether students have achieved the expected learning outcomes. Determine
if there are existing data sources or tools that may be used or if new tools must
be selected or developed. Select those tools that seem most appropriate to the learning
objectives and student population being assessed. For sample tools, see
Sample Assessment Methods.
Select the student population to be assessed (e.g. random sample of sections,
graduating student, etc.).
Specify procedures for analyzing and interpreting the evidence gathered in assessment.
Prior to administering assessments, create a scoring rubric or other method of evaluating
results, and determine the departmental standard for performance expectations (e.g. success
equals 75% of students meeting outcomes). Determine if the assessment will be episodic (a
snapshot of student performance at one point in time) or ongoing (a recurring, consistent,
and comparative assessment of student achievement over time).
Determine how the information that results from assessment can be used for decision making,
planning, and course/program evaluation and improvement. Develop means whereby involved
faculty can review the data, make recommendations for change as appropriate, and incorporate
such changes in the unit's planning cycle. Report findings to the area Dean and the Assessment
Steering Committee, and include them when submitting curricular changes to Curriculum Committee.
Choosing a Tool
Assessment tools should be selected based on their applicability to the learning outcomes
being assessed. In some cases, more than one tool may be used to assess a course or program.
Measures may be direct or indirect. In direct measures, student demonstrate an expected learning
outcomes (e.g. through a test, project, or assessment). In indirect measures, student or others
report their perceptions of how well a given learning outcome has been achieved (e.g. through a student
survey). Ideally, both types of measures will be used. For examples of tools, see the information
on Sample Assessment Methods further down on this page.
Sample Assessment Methods
The following are just some of the potential assessment methods that might be used in assessing student
academic achievement in courses and/or programs. It is always recommended that you choose the assessment
method(s) that seem most appropriate for the learning outcomes you wish to assess.
A project or activity in which students demonstrate achievement of comprehensive learning outcomes
that is usually completed at the end of a course or program. In a program, there may be a capstone
course that includes the pertinent learning outcomes for the program.
A common exam developed collaboratively by a department used in all sections being assessed; may be part of
a graded final that is evaluated separately using a scoring rubric.
External certification/licensure exam
Exams developed by regional or national accrediting or licensing organizations to evaluate students on
specific skills usually related to an occupational area, such as nursing or automotive technology.
Externally evaluated job performance
Evaluation of student competence, knowledge and skills by an employer in and internship, coop, or job placement.
Useful for program assessment in occupational areas.
Externally evaluated performance or exhibit
Useful in the visual and performing arts, a performance or exhibit that is evaluated or judged by experts in
the field other than the instructor for the assessed course/program. The external evaluator may be an instructor
at WCC who teaches a different course/section.
A compilation of student work, including perhaps projects, artwork or writing samples, demonstrating achievement
of multiple learning outcomes. May be in paper or electronic form, and may be used for course or program assessment.
Portfolios are generally externally evaluated.
Pre- and post-test
A test or other assessment activity that is administered to students both at the beginning of a course or program
and at the end, with the intention of demonstrating improved knowledge or skill upon completion.
An assessment activity in which something such as a newspaper article, poem, or piece of art is presented to the
student in order to prompt a specific response, usually written. Useful particularly in the arts and humanities.
A test assessing academic achievement or of knowledge in a specific academic or vocational domain. Such tests are
frequently objective (although some may be written tests with open-ended questions) and have scores referencing the
scores of a norm group, providing comparative data. Standardized tests are generally commercial products and are
useful in many areas. A current example at WCC is the use of CAAP tests to assess skills in the general education
areas of math, writing, and natural science.
Surveys may be used to evaluate perceptions of student achievement. Surveys of graduates, employers, or advisory
committee members may help determine if program outcomes relating to employment and skill attainment have been met.
Students may also be surveyed regarding self-perception of their success or, if administered as a pre-and post-test,
of the improvement following completion of a course or program. Because surveys are indirect measures of student
academic achievement, they are ideally used in combination with more direct measures.
In courses or programs that have a high degree of transferability to other institutions, it may be useful to examine
student success in subsequent courses at the receiving institutions. WCC has a large database of transfer follow-up
information from Eastern Michigan University for assessment purposes.
Creating a Scoring Rubric
What is a scoring rubric?
A scoring rubric is an efficient tool that allows you to objectively measure student performance
on an assessment activity. Rubrics may vary in complexity, but generally do the following:
There are two types of scoring rubrics:
Focus on measuring very specific stated learning objectives
Use a range to rate performance
Are based on specific performance characteristics arranged in levels
indicating the degree to which a standard has been met
Either type of rubric works well for assessment, so you should feel free to use the method with which you
feel is most suited to the learning outcomes and assessment tool you are using.
Primary trait analysis (separate, holistic scoring of specified characteristics
or a product, activity or behavior); for assessment purposes, the primary traits are learning
outcomes being assessed, and separate scores are given for each trait or outcome. This is most
useful when assessing a course or program.
Holistic scoring (one global, holistic score for a product, activity or behavior);
for assessment purposes, in holistic scoring a single score is given for overall achievement of multiple
learning outcomes. This is most useful when assessing a knowledge area such as critical thinking or
When should a scoring rubric be used?
Rubrics can be used to classify and measure almost any product, activity or behavior, such as tests,
essays, reports, portfolios, projects, oral presentations, performances, or group activities. Once you have
selected or developed an assessment tool or tools, you can create a rubric to define the expectations for the
course/program/area you are assessing.
How do I develop a scoring rubric?
Once you have determined what you are assessing (a course, program, or large knowledge/skill set such as
critical thinking) and developed your assessment tool(s), you can develop your rubric. Download the
Scoring Rubric templates for details on
developing primary trait analysis and holistic scoring rubrics. The Scoring Rubric templates are in Adobe
If you do not already have Adobe Acrobat
Reader, you can download it for free from
Identify the characteristics of what you are assessing. In most cases, these will be
specific stated learning outcomes. Each rubric item will usually focus on a different skill or competency.
Keep it simple, with perhaps 5-15 items stated in brief phrases.
Describe the best work you could expect using these characteristics. This describes the
top range of your rubric.
Describe the worst acceptable product using these characteristics. This describes the
lowest acceptable range of your rubric.
Describe an unacceptable product. This describes the lowest range of your rubric.
Develop descriptions of intermediate-level products and assign them to intermediate
ranges. For example, for a primary trait rubric you might choose a range of one to five for each item
or learning outcome (for example: unacceptable, limited proficiency, proficient, good proficiency, superior
proficiency). A sample range for holistic scoring is a scale of one to four, with each range representing
a series of achieved learning objectives (for example, completes all of the objectives, completes some
of the objective, completes few of the objectives, completes none of the objectives). Alternatively,
you may choose a scale such as high pass, pass, low pass, or no pass. Select terminology that is clear,
objective, and meaningful to your assessment tool and learning outcomes.
How do I use my rubric?
There are many ways to use a rubric:
Use it to define performance on a single assessment tool such as a test or project, with
each characteristic representing a learning outcome.
Use it to define program assessment, with each characteristic representing a broad outcome
measured by a different assessment tool.
Use a scoring rubric to evaluate a test or assignment that is given in class for a grade.
Score the assignment blindly with a rubric that is different from the method you use for grading, or have
the assignment externally evaluated using a rubric. One method is to select several questions from a final,
for example, and evaluate them using a rubric in which each question represents a learning outcome to be
Have students self-assess by having them complete a scoring rubric for an assignment or activity
that is aligned with one or more learning outcomes that are to be assessed. This activity should be combined
with more direct assessment measures, but does provide useful information on students' self-perception of
their achievement of learning outcomes.
Analyzing and Using Data
What to do with data
In most cases, departments will analyze and interpret their own data; however, the Assessment
Steering Committee and Office of Institutional Research are available to assist in analyzing
raw data. Once analyzed, the department should review the data to determine whether changes
based on the data are to be made, and summarize it on the Course or Program Assessment Report
Form. Raw data for course and program assessment should be stored in the department and kept
until the completion of the next NCA comprehensive visit in Fall 2009.
How to use data results
Results should be reviewed by all involved faculty and shared with the dean and Assessment
Steering Committee (via the Course or Program Assessment Report Form). Results should also be
reported when submitting syllabi for review to Curriculum Committee. After reviewing results,
faculty may make recommendations for change to their department chair/dean.
Results are reported via the Course, Program and General Education Assessment Report Forms.
Forms are available for download on the assessment web site or from the Assessment Steering
Assessment and its Importance
Find out what assessment encompasses and why it is important for our
academic institution to participate in the process.
A brief description of the Assessment Committee, as well as an archive
of meeting agendas and minutes. Go directly to the
Assessment Committee meeting minutes.
The role of the Assessment Committee
in program and course development at WCC.
How to contact members of the
Agendas and Minutes
Issues that come to the Assessment Committee and their resolutions can be accessed in the
agendas and minutes.
Assessment vs. Grades & Evaluation
Discover the difference between assessment and evaluation. Information
on the use of both assessment and evaluation is provided.
Course, Program, & General Education Assessment
Contains information on each of the three types of assessment that are conducted
on a regular basis at Washtenaw Community College.
The Assessment Responsibility section provides information regarding
the responsibility of each faculty member and the institution as a whole with respect to assessment.
Steps to Developing an Assessment Plan
Provides a step-by-step set of guidelines for developing an assessment plan for
an individual course or program.
Outlines information on appropriate assessment tools as well as sample assessment
Creating a Scoring Rubric
Provides a description of a scoring rubric as well as a link to a downloadable
Analyzing and Using Data
Find out what to do with your data once it has been collected.
View all sections.