Explore Teaching Examples | Provide Feedback

Using Assessments to Evaluate Geoscience Programs

A Framework for Knowing

Course instructors that use assessment to better understand changes in student content knowledge and attitudes provide a foundation on which to gather direct measures of how students are meeting overall program goals. Increasingly, Geoscience departmental program evaluations are required for both internal administrative purposes and for use by outside accreditation organizations. [Palomba and Banta, 1999] provide a framework for faculty wishing to begin to assess programs in their book, Assessment Essentials: Planning Implementing and Improving Assessment in Higher Education.

Seeing the Big Picture

When assessing programs, one very useful kind of assessments to use are those that may be aggregated across all sections of a given course and across different courses. Access more information on assessment of individual courses.

A well constructed plan is provided by Palomba and Banta (1999, pg. 6-18). They suggest six essential steps to develop a comprehensive assessment of an educational program:

  • Agree on learning goals and objectives: Consider asking each faculty member to complete a Teaching Goals Inventory to determine the goals and objectives for each of the courses in the program, then finding common goals and objectives for all courses.
  • Design and Implement a Thoughtful Approach to Assessment Planning: Is the purpose of the assessment to improve the program (formative) or to make judgments about it, or both? (summative)
  • Involve all Stakeholders: Students, alumni, employers and other stakeholders provide insight on goals and objectives and provide support for the assessment process.
  • Select/Design and Implement Data Collection: Will you employ direct measures where students display their knowledge and skills as they respond to the instrument itself, or indirect measures that ask students to reflect on their learning but not display it. Will the assessment instruments be qualitative or quantitative?
  • Examine the data, Share it and Act on it: How will the data collected be presented? Different groups have different needs.
  • Reexamine the Assessment Process: Do the results lead to additional questions that may require further assessment?

References and Resources

Instructional Assessment Resources: Program Evaluation
This site, published by the Division of Instructional Innovation and Assessment at the University of Texas - Austin, provides guidance on creating and implementing an evaluation of an academic program. Other assessment information is also available on this site.