University of Massachusetts Amherst

UMass Amherst: General Education

Umass Logo image 1 image 2 image3
Photo

Teaching & Advising

 

Assessing Your Course

Assessment is an important component of General Education, as it is for all courses. Although the word “assessment” has several meanings, on this webpage the term is used as the systematic collection and analysis of information to improve student learning.

This website provides information on three forms of assessment related to Gen Ed:

Assessment of Your Students
Assessment of Your Teaching
Assessment of Your Course

All three of these are, of course, interrelated in helping students improve their learning experiences.

Assessment of Your Students

Student assessment occurs in many ways. Graded assignments are certainly one way to evaluate student learning, but not the only way. When teaching a Gen Ed course, it is also important to remember that there are several ways to assess student learning, just as there are several ways that students learn. Some students, for example, learn better through visual rather than verbal examples; some through written assignments rather than multiple choice exams; some through group projects rather than individual presentations. Furthermore, assessment in Gen Ed courses should be treated as an ongoing process or an evolving progress towards improvement.

When addressing student assessment, then, one should consider different ways of evaluating knowledge. While exams may well be an important aspect of a Gen Ed course, faculty might employ other forms of assessment such as written and oral assignments, portfolios, journals, individual and group projects, peer assessments, presentations (perhaps through the use of technology), low-risk and short in-class responses, and applied actions that allow students to showcase their learning in positive ways. The Center for Teaching is an excellent resource for faculty who wish to include such forms of assessment, regardless of the class size.

Another kind of assessment of students important for Gen Ed is knowing one’s audience. Perhaps unlike courses taught in certain majors, a Gen Ed course will usually consist of students from very diverse backgrounds and learning styles. It is always a good idea for a faculty member to examine a class roster on SPIRE in order to gather basic information on enrolled students, such as their years and majors. Knowing more about students, however, may help in designing the content and delivery of the material. Brief questionnaires at the beginning of the course and feedback from students during the semester are excellent ways to gauge whether the learning outcomes of the course are being met. The Center for Teaching and the Office of Academic Planning and Assessment offer assistance and suggestions for such feedback.

back to top

Assessment of Your Teaching

There are numerous ways for you to assess your teaching effectiveness, and to use that information for improving the learning experience of students in your classroom or for sharing suggestions to other faculty in the Gen Ed community. The Center for Teaching and the Office of Academic Planning and Assessment provide a wealth of information and assistance; interested Gen Ed faculty should also consult the Teaching Resources for further information.

 

Assessment of Your Course

Similar to the evaluation of your teaching, assessment of your course may provide feedback beneficial for improving student learning experiences. One of the key aspects of course assessment, for example, is the degree to which goals and learning objectives stated in the syllabus are met. Although this is beneficial for all classes, it is extremely significant for faculty who teach Gen Ed courses, as they likely will serve as introductions to new areas of research for the enrolled students. The Office of Academic Planning and Assessment provides numerous resources for faculty in this regard, including a Course-Based Assessment Handbook.

 

Faculty should also remember that all Gen Ed courses must undergo a Quinquennial Review every five years to ensure course alignment with General Education learning goals.

 

back to top