A. The only way to determine whether students master program goals and objectives is to make sure that what gets assessed is linked to what is taught. Alignment guarantees that assessment data will provide evidence of student mastery. Example: If data indicate student performance is low in one area, alignment means that it is possible to examine the goal, objective, and instruction related to that area. Since one can identify when, where, and how the goals/objectives are covered, specific changes can be made and those changes can be monitored through selected assessment practices.
Q. What is the best way to assess the mastery of skills?
A. In order to assess skill mastery, a performance is necessary for students to demonstrate that they can apply what is learned. For example: students may be able to list the components of a research paper, but that does not mean they can write one. They would have to actually write a paper in order to determine that they have mastered the skill. In baseball, a student may be able to explain what should be done at the plate in order to advance a runner from first to second base, but that does not measure the ability of the student to actually advance the runner. In order to assess that skill, the student would need to hit the ball properly in a game situation. Many departments use projects and other activities to assess mastery of skills.
Q. How can we detect problems before they show up on a major test?
A. Assessment should be ongoing. In other words, there should be checkpoints along the way that provide information with respect to student progress. For instance, if goal three of the program is addressed in four courses, there should be at least one objective in each of those courses related to that goal. Additionally, each course should include some form of assessment to determine student mastery of the objective(s). That way, a problem will be detected at the course level, and can be addressed before students take a major test.
Q. What can be done to make sure students take a serious approach to state mandated tests?
A. Faculty can talk with students about the purpose of the tests. Students may be ambivalent toward them because they do not understand why they have to be taken.
A: Remind students that their score on their Major Field Test (a graduation requirement) can be included on a resume if they do well on the test.
Q. Our problem is that the state/national tests measure things outside our program goals/objectives. What can be done about that?
A. Ultimately, a decision has to be made as to whether all items measured on the state tests should be addressed in the program. Those deemed worthy of coverage will need to be inserted into the program at the proper place. Consideration should be given to the goals and objectives that should be written for them, the course(s) in which they should be taught, and the best methods for teaching them. Assessments (ongoing and summative) of the new objectives will provide feedback regarding student mastery.
Q. Is there an evaluation model that would provide guidance for using the data available to us?
A. Some departments develop a matrix where they chart the following: