Integrating Research and Education > Tips on Assessment

Tips on Assessment, Evaluation and Dissemination

Assessment and evaluation are required of all federally funded projects for many reasons:
  • for accountability,
  • to demonstrate that goals or expected outcomes have been met,
  • to provide evidence to convince skeptical colleagues and critics,
  • to help measure change or impacts, and
  • to help identify and chart out necessary corrections as a project evolves.

The terms assessment and evaluation are often used interchangeably, and one glossary of evaluation (NSF 97-153) defines assessment as "often used as a synonym for evaluation." Diane Ebert-May offers that assessment is "data collection with a purpose,"and often addresses the "what questions about teaching and learning—what do students know and what can they do?"Assessment provides evidence that things are working or not (e.g. Do students actually learn better?). Evaluation may be defined as "the systematic investigation of the merit or worth of an object" (NSF 93-152) and is often used in the context of "what value has been added through this project, and how do you know?" Project evaluation is often used to demonstrate accountability (e.g. have the project goals been met?).

Assessment of education and outreach programs may be done for many reasons, on many scales and the results may be utilized by different interested groups-including top-to-bottom project reviews, evaluation of the effectiveness of specific materials or methods, indicators of student learning, long-term impacts of a project, confirmation that the goals of a project have been met. Assessment activities may also lead to more expansive research on learning projects. The scholarship of teaching and learning provides many exciting (and much needed) opportunities to form partnerships with the cognitive and social sciences.

There are a few basic principles that will help you effectively develop your own assessment plans to best meet the needs of your project:

Assessment and Evaluation Resources

The resources listed below are meant to provide a "primer" on assessment and evaluation. The list is not comprehensive, but should provide you with enough supporting information to help you develop appropriate assessment activities in your own projects.

From NSF


Disciplinary Examples

Suggested Readings

Information on Dissemination

User-Friendly Handbook for Project Dissemination: Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology Education, 1994, Donald P. Ely and A. Michael Huberman (NSF 94-17) (This is out of print and difficult to obtain, but still has a lot of good, basic advice).

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