Terminology on this page is taken from the Navajo Technical College website.

Assessment terms are used in a wide variety of ways. We suggest that you use terms that are meaningful to individuals within your discipline or area of responsibility.

Student-learning assessment: “Assessing for learning is a systematic and systemic process of inquiry into what and how well students learn over the progression of their studies and is driven by intellectual curiosity about the efficacy of collective educational practices.”  – Peggy Maki

Formative evaluation: uses findings about student learning or programs as feedback along the way so that students and programs can celebrate achievements and make improvements as needed. The focus is on the process and progress, and sometimes this is called “informal” assessment.

Summative evaluation: characterizes the use of assessment or evaluation findings to make decisions that are high stakes, such as course grades, promotion and tenure, and retention or elimination of programs. The focus is on the sum or final product of student work, or a program’s impact.

Assessment method: technique used to collect data associated with assessment. Methods may include such techniques as course project, graduate survey, portfolio, and external licensing exams.

Benchmark: expected levels/skills for an educational outcome. A benchmark must be quantifiable, typically stated as a percentage or number.

Capstone courses: culminating experiences in which students synthesize subject-matter knowledge they have acquired, integrate cross-disciplinary knowledge, and connect theory and application in preparation for entry into a career.

Classroom assessment techniques: employed to give instructors information on the prior knowledge and skills of a class and on the class’ understanding of or reaction to a particular session or reading.

Course-embedded assessment techniques: based on an assignment used in a specific course.

Curriculum-embedded or learning-embedded assessment: occurs simultaneously with learning, such as projects, portfolios and exhibitions. This occurs in the classroom setting, and, if properly designed, students should not be able to tell whether they are being taught or assessed. Tasks or tests are developed from the curriculum or instructional materials.

Direct assessment: direct measures of student learning require students to display their knowledge and skills as they respond to the instrument itself. Objective tests, essays, presentations, and classroom assignments all meet this criterion.

e-Portfolios: provides students with the ability to electronically store collections of their intellectual work, thus enabling them to document their intellectual growth and development from entry to graduation and beyond. The goal of the e-Portfolio project is to deepen learning and empower students by providing them visible evidence of their learning and illuminating a pathway toward educational and career goals.

Formative assessment: provides feedback to the teacher for the purpose of improving instruction. An assessment used for improvement (individual or program level) rather than for making final decisions or for accountability.

Indirect assessment: asks students to reflect on their learning rather than demonstrate it. Techniques include external reviewers, student surveys, exit interviews, alumni surveys, employer surveys, and curriculum and syllabus analysis.

Indirect assessment tools: these include external reviewers, student surveys, exit interviews, alumni surveys, employer surveys, and curriculum and syllabus analysis.

Learning outcome (educational outcome): flows directly from the program’s statement of purpose. Reflects specific knowledge, skills, and abilities a student will achieve when they complete the program. Describe the learning mastered in behavioral terms at specific levels. In other words, what the learner will be able to do.

Portfolios: a systematic and organized collection of a student’s work that exhibits evidence of a student’s efforts, achievements, and progress over a period of time. Examples include:

  • Showcase: student chooses the best example or product for each objective.
  • Cumulative: student includes all work relevant to each objective.
  • Process: student provides pre/post samples of work for each objective.

Program Assessment: evaluation of determined student learning outcomes that informs changes in pedagogy and curriculum to increase student success.

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

Rubric: a scoring and instruction tool used to assess student performance using a task-specific range or set of criteria. It contains the essential criteria for the task and levels of performance (i.e. from poor to excellent) for each criterion.

Summative Assessment: a culminating assessment, which gives information on students’ mastery of content, knowledge, or skills. The gathering of information at the conclusion of a course, program, or undergraduate career to improve learning or to meet accountability demands.

Validity: the extent to which an assessment measures what it is supposed to measure and the extent to which inferences and actions made on the basis of test scores are appropriate and accurate.