Assessment Tools

Choosing a Tool

Assessment tools should be selected based on their applicability to the learning outcomes being assessed. In some cases, more than one tool may be used to assess a course or program. Measures may be direct or indirect. In direct measures, student demonstrate an expected learning outcomes (e.g. through a test, project, or assessment). In indirect measures, student or others report their perceptions of how well a given learning outcome has been achieved (e.g. through a student survey). Ideally, both types of measures will be used. For examples of tools, see the information on Sample Assessment Methods further down on this page.

Sample Assessment Methods

The following are just some of the potential assessment methods that might be used in assessing student academic achievement in courses and/or programs. It is always recommended that you choose the assessment method(s) that seem most appropriate for the learning outcomes you wish to assess.

Capstone experience

project or activity in which students demonstrate achievement of comprehensive learning outcomes that is usually completed at the end of a course or program. In a program, there may be a capstone course that includes the pertinent learning outcomes for the program.

Departmental exam

A common exam developed collaboratively by a department used in all sections being assessed; may be part of a graded final that is evaluated separately using a scoring rubric.

External certification/licensure exam

Exams developed by regional or national accrediting or licensing organizations to evaluate students on specific skills usually related to an occupational area, such as nursing or automotive technology.

Externally evaluated job performance

Evaluation of student competence, knowledge and skills by an employer in and internship, coop, or job placement. Useful for program assessment in occupational areas.

Externally evaluated performance or exhibit

Useful in the visual and performing arts, a performance or exhibit that is evaluated or judged by experts in the field other than the instructor for the assessed course/program. The external evaluator may be an instructor at WCC who teaches a different course/section.


A compilation of student work, including perhaps projects, artwork or writing samples, demonstrating achievement of multiple learning outcomes. May be in paper or electronic form, and may be used for course or program assessment. Portfolios are generally externally evaluated.

Pre- and post-test

A test or other assessment activity that is administered to students both at the beginning of a course or program and at the end, with the intention of demonstrating improved knowledge or skill upon completion.


An assessment activity in which something such as a newspaper article, poem, or piece of art is presented to the student in order to prompt a specific response, usually written. Useful particularly in the arts and humanities.

Standardized Test

A test assessing academic achievement or of knowledge in a specific academic or vocational domain. Such tests are frequently objective (although some may be written tests with open-ended questions) and have scores referencing the scores of a norm group, providing comparative data. Standardized tests are generally commercial products and are useful in many areas. A current example at WCC is the use of CAAP tests to assess skills in the general education areas of math, writing, and natural science.


Surveys may be used to evaluate perceptions of student achievement. Surveys of graduates, employers, or advisory committee members may help determine if program outcomes relating to employment and skill attainment have been met. Students may also be surveyed regarding self-perception of their success or, if administered as a pre-and post-test, of the improvement following completion of a course or program. Because surveys are indirect measures of student academic achievement, they are ideally used in combination with more direct measures.

Transfer follow-up

In courses or programs that have a high degree of transferability to other institutions, it may be useful to examine student success in subsequent courses at the receiving institutions. WCC has a large database of transfer follow-up information from Eastern Michigan University for assessment purposes.