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Assessment 101: Direct / Indirect

Direct vs Indirect Assessment

direct assessment

Gathers evidence about student learning based on student performance that demonstrates the learning itself; can be value added, related to standards, or quantitative, embedded or not, using local or external criteria.

Examples are written assignments, classroom assignments, presentations, test results, projects, logs, portfolios and direct observations (Leskes, 2002)

direct measure testing


indirect assessment

Acquires evidence about how students feel about learning and their learning environment rather than actual demonstrations of outcome achievement.

Examples include: surveys, questionnaires, interviews, focus groups and reflective essays (Doug Eder)

indirect focus group

Examples of Direct / Indirect Course Assessment


Course and homework assignments

Exams and quizzes

Standardized tests

Term papers and reports

Observations of field work, internship performance, service learning, clinical experiences

Research projects

Class discussion participation

Case study analysis

Rubric scores for writing, oral presentations, and performances

Artistic performances and products

Grades based on explicit criteria related to clear learning goals

Course evaluations

Test blueprints (outlines of the concepts and skills covered on tests)

Percent of class time spent in active learning

Number of student hours spent on service learning

Number of student hours spent on homework

Number of student hours spent at intellectual or cultural activities related to the course

Grades that are not based on explicit criteria related to clear learning goals

Examples of Direct / Indirect Program Assessment


Capstone projects, senior theses, exhibits, or performances

Pass rates or scores on licensure, certification, or subject area tests

Student publications or conference presentations

Employer and internship supervisor ratings of students' performance


Focus group interviews with students, faculty members, or employees

Registration or course enrollment information

Department or program review data

Job placement

Employer or alumni surveys

Student perception surveys

Proportion of upper-level courses compared to the same program at other institutions

Program graduation rates

Examples of Direct / Indirect Institutional Assessment


Performance on tests of writing, critical thinking, or general knowledge

Rubric scores for class assignments in General Education, interdisciplinary core courses, or other courses required of all students

Performance on achievement tests

Explicit self-reflections on what students have learned related to institutional programs such as service learning (e.g., asking students to name the three most important things they have learned in a program)


Locally developed, commercial, or national surveys of student perceptions or self-report of activities (e.g., National Survey of Student Engagement)

Transcript studies that examine patterns and trends of course selection and grading

Annual reports including institutional benchmarks (e.g., graduation and retention rates, grade point averages of graduates, etc.)

Adapted from: Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Student Learning Assessment: Options and Resources.
Chapter 3, Evaluating Student Learning: 27-53; 2007.

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