Assessing student learning outcomes: Research trajectories
Abstract: Measurement of learning outcomes first requires the specification of a set of outcomes and related rubrics or standards by which attainment of the outcomes can be assessed. Various taxonomies have been developed in a range of countries but there is little common ideology behind them or consistency in the way they are defined. The research contexts and the approaches used in developing these different taxonomies of learning outcomes are discussed and a set of criteria explored for making judgments about the suitability of the resultant sets of learning outcomes. The next research question then relates to how these learning outcomes, which may be useful within an institution for accreditation or credit transfer purposes, are to be measured. Various different approaches to assessment have been used in the past, some of which do not actually measure what students have learned. These are discussed and challenges to accurate measurement identified. The chapter contends that recent work in the United States suggests that it may be possible to use direct individual assessment of students as the basis of measurement of learning outcomes at an institutional level, but that such a prospect requires a change in approach to assessment by academic staff.
Keywords: defining learning outcomes; measuring learning outcomes; academic assessment; education research