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Assessment Terminology

Terminology adapted from New Horizons unless otherwise cited.

Assessment: The process of observing learning: describing, collecting, recording, and interpreting information about a student's (or one's own) learning. At RCTC, we assess learning at three distinct levels: Course Level, Program Level, and Institution Level.

Curriculum Alignment: The degree to which the scope and content of a curriculum match measures used to evaluate that curriculum. Learning activities within a curriculum should match existing learning objectives.

Formative Assessment: A process of assessment. Students provide evidence of their learning and instructors provide feedback to improve that learning. Student performance might also lead to improvements in curriculum and classroom activities. Contrast with summative assessment (see below).

Outcome: An operationally defined educational goal, usually a culminating activity, product, or performance that can be measured.

Performance-based Assessment: Direct, systematic observation and rating of student performance of an educational outcome, often an ongoing observation over time.

Performance Criteria: The standards by which student performance is evaluated. Performance criteria help assessors maintain objectivity and provide students with important information about expectation, giving them a target or goal to strive for.

Portfolio: A systematic and organized collection of a student's work that exhibits to others the direct evidence of a student's efforts, achievements, and progress over a period of time. The collection should involve the student in selection of its contents, and should include information about the performance criteria, the rubric or criteria for judging merit, and evidence of student self-reflection or evaluation. It should include representative work, providing documentation of the student's performance and a basis for evaluation of the student's progress.

Portfolio Assessment: Portfolios may be assessed in a variety of ways. Each piece may be individually scored, or the portfolio might be assessed merely for the presence of required pieces.

Reliability: The measure of consistency for an assessment instrument. The instrument should yield similar results over time with similar populations in similar circumstances.

Rubric: At its most basic, a rubric is a scoring tool that lays out the specific expectations for an assignment. Rubrics divide an assignment into its component parts and provide a detailed description of what constitutes acceptable or unacceptable levels of performance for each of those parts (Stevens & Levi, 2005).

Self-Assessment: A process in which a student engages in a systematic review of a performance, usually for the purpose of improving future performance. May involve comparison with a standard established criteria. May involve critiquing one's own work or may be a simple description of the performance.

Standards: Agreed upon values used to measure the quality of student performance, instructional methods, curriculum, etc...

Summative Assessment: Evaluation at the conclusion of a unit or units of instruction or an activity or plan to determine or judge student skills and knowledge or effectiveness of a plan or activity. Outcomes are the culmination of a teaching/learning process for a unit, subject, or year's study. Contrast with formative assessment (see above).

Validity: The assessment measures the desired performance outcome(s). The assessment accurately reflects the learning it was designed to measure.


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Rochester Community and Technical College, a member of Minnesota State.
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