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Assessing Learning

In SNL's competency-based undergraduate curriculum, students strive to achieve learning outcomes that meet the criteria of competency statements that describe broad areas of knowledge and skill sets. At the heart of teaching to competency are effective means of assessing student learning in ways that promote students' development toward the course learning outcomes and competency criteria. Effective assessment will incorporate SNL's principles of assessment as well as implement rubrics for differentiating between levels of quality in student work.

SNL's principles rest on a variety of beliefs regarding adult learning. Among the most salient of these are:

  • Learning is iterative and deepened when directed toward goals.
  • Assessment is conceptually separable from instruction—it focuses on outcome rather than input.
  • Learning occurs from interaction with and among a wide variety of knowledge sources, the experience of others and one’s self.
  • The evidence of learning may be captured in a variety of ways.
  • Self-assessment is a significant link between external assessment, learning, and development.

Additionally, the application of the assessment principles should embody four qualities:

Clarity communicating expectations, articulating criteria for the demonstration of competency and how the quality of level of learning is measured; providing accessible feedback.

Integrity applying the criteria for demonstrating learning and indicators of quality; applying the expectations and standards of the college and the university in an honest and constructive manner; providing feedback that informs subsequent learning agenda.

Flexibility recognizing learning through multiple forms of evidence; using multiple forms of assessment appropriate to measure learning outcomes; drawing on alternate sources of expertise when appropriate.

Empathy providing feedback in sufficient detail to honor students’ efforts; communicating commentary in a constructive manner and tone; establishing a cooperative and trusting relationship between instructor and learner to promote assessment.

Following are a set of nine principles to guide assessment of learning at SNL:

  • Assessment should feed information back to the learner to guide future learning.
  • Assessment should be based on multiple forms of evidence of learning.
  • Assessment strategies and activities should draw upon the affective, cognitive and conative domains of learning.
  • Assessment should be referenced to specified learning outcomes.
  • Assessment practices should support the overall development of students as well as measure progress toward specific learning outcomes.
  • Self-assessment should be included with the documentation of learning.
  • Assessment decisions should include the judgments of relevant experts.
  • Assessment processes should be designed to insure the assimilation of multiple sources of assessment data.
  • Assessment processes should informally recognize and affirm learning outside of competency areas specified by the curriculum.