Gathering Evidence of Learning

How do you know if your students are achieving their learning goals? You need to collect evidence—evidence of different kinds and on different levels. It might be useful to keep in mind that gathering evidence of your students’ learning is something you have been doing for most of your academic career. The value of applying an assessment practice to the process is that you now will analyze the evidence you gather based on the learning goals you have articulated. For example, you might give an exam and specifically target three open-ended questions to determine whether your students have achieved learning goals related to the development of critical and analytical skills.

There are basically two kinds of evidence you can collect: direct and indirect.

Indirect methods reveal characteristics associated with learning, but they only imply that learning has occurred. These characteristics may be specific to the students, such as students’ own accounts of their learning, or they may be reflective of the institution as a whole, as in the case of graduation rates.

Direct methods provide concrete evidence of whether a student has command of a specific subject or content area, can perform a certain task, exhibits a particular skill, demonstrates a certain quality in his or her work, or holds a particular value.

The table below provides other examples of measures that are commonly used to provide evidence of student learning at the course level.

Direct MeasuresIndirect Measures
Course LevelExams and quizzesResearch projectsClass participationGrades based on criteria related to learning goals Internship performance or field experienceCourse evaluationsOutlines of concepts and skills covered on testsPercent of class time spent in active learningNumber of student hours spent on service class work and other course-related activitiesGrade point averages or course grade distribution

Georgetown faculty have been gathering evidence of their students’ learning for years. The chart included in this PDF represents the kinds of measures and evidence we are currently collecting and analyzing at the course and program levels.

Classroom Assessment Techniques

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are simple, non-graded, in-class activities designed to give you and your students useful feedback on the teaching-learning process as it’s happening. For more information on CATs, please see our CATs page.

Additional CNDLS Assessment Support

CNDLS offers several useful opportunities for gathering student feedback:

Mid-Semester Teaching Feedback sessions provide an opportunity to solicit students’ opinions on a course as it’s still going on, leaving time for you to make changes to the course structure based on their feedback. CNDLS staff members will work with you to formulate questions to ask students, then will administer the in-class session (they take 35 minutes) and meet with you to review the responses and discuss possible changes to the course.

Short surveys, designed in collaboration with CNDLS staff, can collect student opinions about courses or departments/programs. Surveys can be designed to produce either quantitative or qualitative data, and CNDLS will put the survey results online and work with you to review the data.