Assessment of Student Learning in Higher Ed

Assessment is an instrumental component of the learning process.  If done effectively, it has the ability to engage learners in the learning process, which helps learners to become accountable and gives them the ability to become more independent in their learning process.  Being mindful of the principles of assessment help balance environments that are common in the United States like “teaching to the test.”  Although less commonly practiced in higher education, students spend much of their lives being accountable to their learning outcomes, or the test they take at the end, but not necessarily to their learning process.  Effective integration of proper assessment balances this potential weakness in teaching style overly-weighted to tests and refocuses on the many types of assessment.  Focusing on student development, types of assessment should encourage students to self-monitor and self-assess, stimulate dialogue and involve peers in their learning and assessment process, and involve learners in assessment design and feedback.  Feedback at its best leads to improvement and the assessment process ensures that the two are interconnected.  

The potential benefits of effective assessment are hard to contest, but developing and implementing assessment tools and processes is not easy and could be helped by the utilization of technology.  It isn’t possible to use technology for assessment without the institutional support of the learning institutions and their leadership and faculty.  When this support is present, technology has the ability to make learning possible from great distances and be incredibly time responsive, allowing learners to assess wherever they are at any time of day, and connecting learners to teachers through digital environments.  Ideally, the use of technology for assessment also makes assessment more effective, encouraging students to self-monitor regularly and become independent learners through dynamic and interactive digital assessment environments. Through technology, assessment can also be integrated into the learning process, creating virtual environments where students can learn to be doctors, engineers, etc.  Finally, the utilization of technology for assessment has the potential to save educators great deals of time by making their assessment tools more efficient and replicable.