Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Assessment 101: Vocabulary

Key Assessment Vocabulary

assessment wordcloud


Assessment Process*
• Establish clear, observable expected goals for student learning.
• Ensure that students have sufficient opportunities to achieve those goals.
• Systematically gather, analyze, and interpret evidence of how well student learning meets those goals.
• Use the resulting information to understand and improve student learning.
*(Suskie, Linda. Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide, 3rd Edition, 2018)

Course Learning Outcomes
Learning outcomes that are observable, measurable and assessable; statements of the end products of student learning including knowledge, skills, competencies and attitudes. (CCAC)

Curriculum Map
A matrix that connects general education goals and program objectives to any course learning outcomes within a particular discipline; it is an auditing tool to identify alignments to create a comprehensive curriculum. (CCAC)

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)

Evaluation focuses on grades and may reflect classroom components other than course content and mastery level. Evaluation is a final review on your instruction to gauge the quality. It's product-oriented. (

Formative Assessment
The gathering of information about student learning-during the progression of a course or program and usually repeatedly-to improve the learning of those students. Example: reading the first lab reports of a class to assess whether some or all students in the group need a lesson on how to make them succinct and informative. (Leskes, 2002)

General Education Goals
Upon graduation with an Associate's Degree, a CCAC student will acquire a level of proficiency comparable with the first two years of a baccalaureate degree in the following six (6) General Education areas: Communication, Technological Competencies, Information Literacy, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Quantitative and Scientific Reasoning, and Culture, Society and Citizenship. (CCAC) PDF File

Indirect Assessment
Acquiring 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. (Eder)

Program Assessment
Helps determine whether students can integrate learning from individual courses into a coherent whole. Program assessment focuses on the cumulative effects of the education process (Palomba and Banta). Whereas classroom assessment focuses on gauging learning for individual students, program assessment gauges the learning of a group of students. The outcomes information in program assessment is used to improve courses, programs, and services. (CCAC)

Program Objectives
A set of specific standards and/or criteria that should be achieved by the student upon completion of the program. Typically students encounter objectives by successfully completing a variety of courses within the content area. (CCAC)

Qualitative Assessment
Uses flexible, naturalistic methods and are usually analyzed by looking for recurring patterns and themes. Examples include: reflective writing, notes from focus groups, interviews, and observations, and online discussion threads. (Suskie)

Quantitative Assessment
Uses structured, predetermined response options that can be summarized into meaningful numbers and analyzed statistically. Examples include: test scores, rubric scores, and survey ratings. (Suskie)

Specific sets of criteria that clearly define for both student and teacher what a range of acceptable and unacceptable performance looks like. Criteria define descriptors of ability at each level of performance and assign values to each level. Levels referred to are proficiency levels which describe a continuum from excellent to unacceptable product. (General Education Assessment Resource Center Glossary, Borough of Manhattan Community College)

Summative Assessment
Evaluation at the conclusion of a unit or units of instruction or an activity or plan to determine or judge student skills and knowledge or effectiveness of a plan or activity. The gathering of information at the conclusion of a course when used for improvement, impacts the next cohort of students taking the course or program. Example: examining student final exams in a course to see if certain specific areas of the curriculum were understood less well than others. (Leskes, 2002)



vocabulary pdf
PDF File

Other Resources

Leskes, Andrea. “Beyond Confusion: An Assessment Glossary.Association of American Colleges & Universities, Association of American Colleges & Universities, 29 Dec. 2014.

Have a question? Email: