Assessment – Following Through on Learning Outcomes

“Key to the outcomes approach to assessment is the use of ‘authentic assessment’. This approach stresses creating assignments and assessments that simulate as much as possible the situations in which students would make use of the knowledge, skills and values emphasized in the course.”
So, what’s a learning outcome anyway? Mark Battersby, p. 2

Through assessment, learning outcomes can become fully integrated in course design and delivery. Because learning outcomes focus on the application and integration of knowledge and skills learned, learning outcomes point to appropriate modes of assessment and ensure that assessment focuses on the essential knowledge or skills of the course. Assignments and exams should match the knowledge and skills described in the course’s learning outcomes. A good learning outcome can readily be translated into an assignment or exam question; if it cannot, the learning outcome may need to be refined.

One way to match outcomes with appropriate modes of assessment is to return to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: the verbs associated with each level of learning indicate the complexity of the knowledge or skills that students should be asked to demonstrate in an assignment or exam question. An outcome, for example, that asks students to recall key moments leading up to an historical event might be assessed through multiple choice or short answer questions. By contrast, an outcome that asks students to evaluate several different policy models might be assessed through a debate or written essay. Through assessment, learning outcomes can become fully integrated in course design and delivery.

Because learning outcomes focus on the application and integration of knowledge and skills learned, learning outcomes point to appropriate modes of assessment and ensure that assessment focuses on the essential knowledge or skills of the course. Assignments and exams should match the knowledge and skills described in the course’s learning outcomes. A good learning outcome can readily be translated into an assignment or exam question; if it cannot, the learning outcome may need to be refined.

One way to match outcomes with appropriate modes of assessment is to return to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: the verbs associated with each level of learning indicate the complexity of the knowledge or skills that students should be asked to demonstrate in an assignment or exam question. An outcome, for example, that asks students to recall key moments leading up to an historical event might be assessed through multiple choice or short answer questions. By contrast, an outcome that asks students to evaluate several different policy models might be assessed through a debate or written essay.

Learning outcomes may also point to more unconventional modes of assessment. Because learning outcomes can connect student learning with its application both within and outside of an academic context, learning outcomes may point to modes of assessment that parallel the type of work that students may produce with the learned knowledge and skills in their career or later in life.

The following worksheet might help you translate your instructional goals or objectives for a unit of instruction into an assessable learning outcome. Remember that each unit of instruction might have multiple learning outcomes.

UNIT OF INSTRUCTION (e.g. lecture, activity, exam, course, workshop)    

CLASSROOM

Objective
What content or skills will be covered in this instruction?

  • Identification and evaluation of severe weather patterns, use of weather maps

Outcome
What should students know or be able to do as a result of this unit of instruction?

  • By completing this assignment, students will be able to accurately predict severe weather using a standard weather map.

How do you know?
How will you be able to tell that students have achieved this outcome?

  • Student predictions will be compared with historical weather records.

Assessment
What kind of work can students produce to demonstrate this?

  • Based on this standard weather map, please indicate where you would expect to see severe whether in the next 24-hour period. Your results will be compared with historical weather records.
EXAM

Objective
What content or skills will be covered in this instruction?

Stylistic characteristics and common themes of Modernist literature

Outcome
What should students know or be able to do as a result of this unit of instruction?

  • By the end of this unit, students will be able to identify the stylistic and thematic elements of Modernism.

How do you know?
How will you be able to tell that students have achieved this outcome?

  • Students will be able to identify a passage from a Modernist novel they have not read.

Assessment
What kind of work can students produce to demonstrate this?

  • Read this passage. Identify which literary movement it represents and which qualities drew you to that conclusion.

 

For a full-page version of this worksheet, please see attached PDF.

For additional information on assessment:
Astin, A. (1991). Assessment for excellence. Toronto: Collier Macmillan Canada.
Assessment. London: Educational Development Unit, London Metropolitan University.
https://metranet.londonmet.ac.uk/fms/MRSite/psd/hr/capd/Assessment Framework/Assessment Framework/University Assessment Framework.pdf

Core principles of effective assessment. Melbourne: Australian Universities Teaching Committee, Centre for the Study of Higher Education (Australia). http://www.cshe.unimelb.edu.au/assessinglearning/docs/AssessingLearning.pdf