Interpret the Data on Learning

Results of assessment methods should be deliberately aligned with those learning outcomes established at the outset of the assessment process. The type of assessment results is going to depend on the learning outcome and the type of information that can support whether the learning outcome has been sufficiently accomplished during the course of the term. Therefore, as you are developing your assessment plan, it is important to think about and specify what your criteria for excellence, or success, will look like for your learning outcomes. If the methods you used to assess the learning outcome are in alignment, once you have collected your data, then you can apply your criteria to determine whether students have adequately met your expectations for their learning, or they have not. If your students met your minimum criteria or criteria for excellence, here are a few questions to consider:

  • Were your expectations for your students appropriate? Were your minimum expectations too low for your class?  Should you raise your expectations about what your students should be able to do in the future?
  • What did you do to ensure that your students could meet your learning outcomes? Did you design specific activities, give good feedback, dedicate more class time, etc.?  Could you replicate this process for other learning outcomes in your course?
  • How much did the ability of the students to excel deal with qualities of your students and that individual course (for example, were they all majors, was it a small class size, were they very engaged in the course content, etc.)? And how much of their success related directly to you and what you did as the instructor? These are good questions to ask so that you can compare results between different sections of the same class or between different terms.

If your students did not meet your minimum criteria for your learning outcome, here are a few questions to consider:

  • Does your method of assessment actually address the outcome that you are trying to assess? For example, are you trying to determine whether students can develop testable hypotheses, but you are relying on the results of a multiple-choice question to do that?  Alternatively, the activity may be assessing something similar to the learning outcome, but not the outcome as it was written.  In this case, you may need to reevaluate the learning outcome or reformulate the assignment to make sure it adequately addresses the learning outcome as it was written.
  • Did your students have enough of an opportunity to practice and receive feedback about this learning outcome? Without sufficient time dedicated to the task and feedback about their progress, they may not have had time to sufficiently learn the concept to the point that they could apply it to a new situation or context.
    • Could you develop additional exercises, problems, activities, etc. to help them address this topic?
    • Can you devote more time in your class to it?
    • What else could you do differently to help the students learn the material?
  • How did the students react to this topic? Were there other extenuating circumstances (such as a fire drill, snow day, instructor being sick, etc.) that may have distracted the students from the task at hand?