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Using Assessments to Evaluate Geoscience Courses

Beyond Student Evaluations

Most colleges and universities use student evaluatiuons of faculty teaching as a measure of what students are learning and their perceptions of how much content was learned in a given course. These student evaluations are sometimes used to judge faculty teaching effectiveness and for decisions on promotion and tenure. Students are sometimes not very good judges of what they have learned, and evaluations of faculty teaching usually are completed at the end of the course, too late to be used by faculty to make mid-course corrections in teaching strategies. Other SERC modules contain examples of Knowledge surveys and ConcepTests given at the start, middle and end of a course to provide valuable feedback from students and provide a measure of teaching and learning independent of student evaluations.

Developing Course Instructional Goals

How well are my students learning? Is the course effective in developing the skills and content knowledge students need to take more advanced courses and become lifelong learners? A sustained program of formative and summative assessment can bring data to bear on answering these and other questions. A Teaching Goals Inventory and Self-Scorable Worksheet Angelo and Cross, 1993 pp.393-397) provides a model for defining the essential instructional goals of your course. Responses are clustered into several catagories.
Among these are:
  • Discipline-specific knowledge and skills
  • Higher-order thinking skills
  • Work and career skills
Teaching Goals Worksheets are but one instrument that can be used for course evaluation. For more information on other types of assessments that can be used to measure changes in student knowledge, visit "How to Use Assesment Strategies" To get more information on strategies you can use to weave individual course evaluations into the fabric of program evaluation, visit "Using Assessments to Evaluate Geoscience Programs."


Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. (1993) Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross Jossey-Bass, San Francisco 2nd Edition