Assessment for Meaningful Feedback

Students need and want timely and helpful feedback on their performance in regard to the outcomes of a course. As a COCC instructor, you will want to know:

  • What are the basics of effective assessment?
  • How can students take more responsibility for their learning through assessment practices?  
  • Can performance standards become scoring guides that contribute to program outcomes?

Assessment can be defined as "a process, integral to learning that involves observation and judgment of each student's performance, on the basis of explicit criteria with resulting feedback to the student". The way learning outcomes are assessed is critical to its educational value. Assessment of student learning is most effectively conducted when based upon meaningful and relevant criteria that authentically evaluate the achievement of knowledge, skills, and abilities". It should give students more control over their own learning and provide for risk-free reflection and feedback.

A positive aspect of student-centered curriculum is that both qualitative and the more standard quantitative assessments can be used. They actually complement themselves. Qualitative assessments make it easier for the instructor and outsiders to measure the quality of the course, whereas quantitative assessments allow the student to better determine their strengths and weaknesses.

Since outcome assessment should include activities that would be done by someone with those skills and competencies, standard written tests should be used sparingly and only when they add to the student's ability to attain the outcomes. Since learning is enhanced when students perform hands-on activities, more active assessments are not just a means of evaluation, but also increases learning itself.

Classroom Assessment. The purpose of classroom assessment is to provide information (feedback) to both students and the teacher as to how the individual did in light of what he or she attempted to do. Feedback helps teachers re-focus teaching and helps students make their learning more efficient and effective. 

Feedback is…

  • Information about how a person did in light of what he or she attempted - intent and ideal
  • Confirms or disconfirms the correctness of actions

The best feedback is:

  • Highly specific, useful evidence of effect relative to intent
  • Directly revealing or highly descriptive of what actually resulted
  • Clear to the student
  • Available or offered in terms of specific targets and standards
  • Timely, frequent and ongoing
  • The outcome is derived from true (real world) models
  • Enables students to improve through self-assessment and self-adjustment


At COCC, this means ideally that students should be able to describe how they are doing or performing on the course outcomes at any time during the term. They would have the results of quizzes, exams homework and assignments quickly enough to learn from these to apply to new material and course objectives.

* INDICATOR:  A behavior or trait that is typical of a particular performance being assessed.  It is a concrete sign, or symptom of a criterion being met. Taken together as a "set of indicators," they specify performance levels for the criterion.  For example, when considering an assessment of the outcome, "good speaking," "the criterion," "student speaks in an engaging manner," the indicators might include, "makes eye contact," "modulates voice to the room and size of audience," "handles audience questions with accurate information," and "handles audience's questions with tact and grace." Indicators are not always appropriate in all contexts and for all tasks.

* CRITERIA: The qualities that must be met by learner performances/products for work to be up to standard and for the performances to be deemed successful.  To ask "what are the criteria?" amounts to asking: "What should we look for in examining students' products or performances to know if they were successful?  What kinds of errors diminish the quality of performance?"

See examples of Generalized Rubrics and Scoring Guides under Articulating Course Outcomes.

An excellent resource for the teacher in classroom assessment can be found in the COCC library:

Angelo and Cross (1993).  Classroom Assessment Techniques.  A Handbook for College Teachers.  SF:  John Wiley & Sons

See the student evaluation forms to anticipate areas that you will receive feedback from students.

*  Adapted from: Grant Wiggins and Jay McTige (1988) Understanding by Design, Alexandria, VA: Association of Curriculium and Development.

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