Is what I’m doing assessment or evaluation?

2015-03-14_OhNoLogo22-abby3I got into assessment via a love of learning outcomes (as opposed to Mark who got in it via a love of SPSS…Mark + math = true love). Training as a French high school teacher (tres chic!) meant taking quite a few classroom assessment courses studying concepts such as: assessment, evaluation, goals, outcomes, etc. I spent years seeking to understand the nuanced differences and relationship between these terms – hence the flowchart I put together (see below – feel free to use it; just throw ‘Oh no’ some love):

04-13-2015 - Learning Goal definitions chart - image

I’ll get into all of these terms in later posts.

During the month of April, we’re focusing on assessment in the bigger picture; laying groundwork to really dive into detailed assessment topics. Today, I’m looking into the difference between assessment and evaluation. I know varying definitions exist, and what I’m about to embark upon may be controversial, but here’s my effort at making the assessment vs. evaluation a little more clear.

Assessment is… Evaluation is…
  • about LEARNING – what did the students learn?
  • about value – did students think it was worth their time? (which is what you might be asking yourself about reading this blog ;-D)
  • finding out if what you intended to teach students is what the students actually learned AND to what degree did they learn it?
  • gathering facts about the initiative/service/program (e.g., number of attendees, were they satisfied, was the event space good, was there enough food, how much did it cost, etc…AND the results of your assessment) in order to determine any number of answers, such as:
    • who are we serving?
    • who are we not serving?
    • did students think it added value?
    • was it worth our staff time and resources?
  • (ideally) driven by your institution, department, and/or office mission and/or goals
  • (ideally) driven by your institution, department, and/or office mission and/or goals
  • the tool you use to inform how you improve learning – if you’re not using the information taken from your assessment, then I’m not sure why you’re assessing – I mean, I know you all love assessment so much…HA!
  • the tool you use to determine if you should change the logistics, format, structure, or other elements of the initiative/service/program itself
  • not counting how many students were present nor if they were satisfied (counting and satisfaction are NOT assessment)
  • count your heart out! Go ahead, ask if they’d suggest this to their friends. Find out if they wanted  foie gras instead of pizza at the event. Ask away!

Both assessment and evaluation are needed to best serve students, but decide (before you get started) what YOU are seeking to know in order to ask the “right” questions. Most likely, you’ll use a little bit of both.

There’s so much more to all of this! Stay tuned for equally stimulating posts about:

  • goals vs. outcomes
  • how to create effective learning outcomes (or are they goals?!)
    • and how to align them with your institution, department, or office goals (or are they objectives?!)
  • data analytics vs. data mining (WHOA…wait a minute! – I promise you know than you think you know)

Try to contain your excitement, people. This is a blog, not an N’Sync reunion concert.

Did I get it right? What would you add to or change about my definitions? What other common assessment/evaluation terms should we explore?

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One thought on “Is what I’m doing assessment or evaluation?

  1. Pingback: Assessment, Evaluation, or Research? |

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