There is no best way to assess. Assessment has to be developed and tailored by each academic program to address the program’s own unique goals.

Assessment can use a variety of methods to measure student performance but some traditional direct ways include:

  • Multiple choice exams that can determine whether students show mastery of important content
  • Papers that can be evaluated by faculty using criteria or rubrics to determine if students demonstrate certain critical thinking or writing skills or mastery of content
  • Portfolios of a student’s best performance on exams, papers, art projects or music compositions (for example), across a program’s curriculum. Portfolios are evaluated by faculty also using set criteria (developed by faculty) to determine whether students are demonstrating skills that meet a program's goals.
  • Standardized assessment instrument that focuses on the skills or content students are expected to master. An ETS Major Field Test is one example. Advantages of standardized exams are that they usually have national norms and are valued within their respective disciplines.

Assessment can be embedded within a classroom. A task like an assignment, paper or exam (for example) that can be evaluated for addressing a program goal can be used. This type of assessment makes the process easy and flows with the normal routine of the curriculum.

Direct versus indirect assessment. The methods described above are direct methods of assessing student learning. That is, student performance is directly measured using techniques that evaluate student work or knowledge. This is the most direct way to determine whether students are walking away with the skills and knowledge intended by a program.

Sometimes indirect measures of student performance are used, such as a questionnaire that asks for students’ subjective perceptions of their own performance. This may provide useful information for a program but may or MAY NOT actually correspond with actual student performance.