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Assessment Glossary

Over time, assessment terminology has become quite standardized. However, there are some unique connotations, such as those associated with specialized accreditation, e.g., ABET. The link below reflects commonly understood meanings for assessment terms and is consistent with how these terms are used at Ferris. When we use the term "assessment," we are typically referring to measurement and reporting of students' learning and not the other important higher education goals or objectives that may include completion, retention, employment, and student satisfaction with instruction. These and other such measurements are typically classified as measures of institutional effectiveness.

Confusing for some is the distinction between the terms outcome, goal, and/or objective. Here are the distinctions that are common:

  • Outcomes (also called Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) or Learning Outcomes) reflect what a student knows or is able to do in another context, such as in subsequent courses or in the workplace, and represents a higher-level performance (typically at application or above on Bloom’s taxonomy). Courses normally have few of these. . . maybe 3-6.
  • Objectives often support the development of outcomes and are the less complex tasks that must be mastered before an outcome can be achieved. Some refer to these as enabling objectives. Objectives are frequently what are “tested,” while outcomes are observed through performances, projects, or culminating research projects. Assessment systems rarely request that results of objectives be reported; these are the formative findings from instruction.
  • Goals reflect plans or aspirations. Frequently these include graduation targets, employment expectations (such as 98% of graduates will be employed in their fields within six months of graduation), or planning components (such as improve the classroom environment by installing more flexible furnishings).

However, as noted above, some disciplines and accreditors have embraced different terminology which necessarily requires adapting to those standards. An excellent resource for understanding these distinctions is the very informative Learning Insight issue produced by faculty member Sandra Brigance.

The American Public University's Assessment Glossary is comprehensive glossary that introduces many terms as commonly understood in assessment circles and embraced by Ferris.  This glossary does not include objectives among its definitions.