Assessment How-to

Report & Use Assessment Results

Congratulations are in order if you have completed an assessment activity! Assessment results are meant to improve teaching and learning as well as inform planning and decision making. And, results can highlight successes such as these:

  • better alignment of the curriculum with desired outcomes;
  • creation of useful rubrics;
  • development of explicit standards and corresponding samples of student work ("anchors");
  • evidence that students are meeting or exceeding learning expectations.

Below are elements that are typically found in a report or assessment research results (note: the elements may appear in a different sequence and some may not be appropriate in your report):

Element in the report Guiding questions (some may not apply)
1. The outcome(s) and assessment question(s) that were investigated.  
2. The type of evidence that was collected and when it was collected.  

3. How a sample was selected (if sampling was used).

  • Who submitted data?
  • How many students are in the program (or, how many graduate each year)?
  • How many were asked to participate in the study?
  • How were they selected?
  • How many actually participated?
  • How many non-responses were there?
4. How the evidence was evaluated.
  • How was the exam scored? (include the key in the report)
  • What scoring rubric was used? (include the rubric in the report)
  • What were the benchmark samples of student work? (include those anchors in the report)
5. A timeline of key events.  
6. Summary of the results.
  • How many students passed the exam?
  • How many students scored "1," "2," "3," or "4"?
  • How many faculty members agreed, disagreed, were neutral?
7. Answer(s) to the assessment question and whether the criteria for success were met.  
8. Intended uses for the assessment such as the specific actions that might be taken.

Curriculum-related: Given the results, should we . . .

  • Change how courses are taught or the assignments?
  • Revise course content?
  • Widely share anchors with students?
  • Revise the program or course learning outcomes?
  • Modify frequency or schedule of course offerings?
  • Revise or enforce prerequisites?
  • Revise the course sequence?
  • Add or delete course(s)?

Resource-related actions: Given the results, should we . . .

  • Hire or re-assign faculty and/or staff?
  • Increase classroom space?
  • Train faculty and/or staff?

Academic processes. Given the results, should we . . .

  • Improve how we use technology?
  • Revise advising standards or processes?
  • Revise admission criteria?
9. Evaluation of the assessment plan and discussion of ways to improve (if needed).
  • What aspects of the assessment process worked well and what changes might make it more effective?
  • Given our experience carrying out this assessment, should we:
    • Change the criteria for success? Modify our expectations?
    • Revise data-collection or data-evaluation methods?
    • Revise measurement approaches?
    • Change the timeline?
    • Collect and analyze additional data?
10. After faculty discussion of the results, the report can include a section that describes the actions the program will take, who will take those actions, and the timeline for implementing the actions. Using the results for improvement is the goal of assessment.  

Be sure to distribute the report of the results as widely as possible in multiple formats (e.g., oral and written). After discussion, act on the results in ways that will improve the assessment process, student learning, or both. Assessment results are important evidence on which to base requests for funding, to make curriculum changes, add faculty lines, and more. Even negative assessment results can have a positive effect when they are used to improve the learning process.

Tips for Writing the Report

  • Determine the specific goal(s) of the report. For example, the goal may be to communicate to colleagues in the department the student skills that were assessed, how evidence was collected and evaluated, what the results mean and how they will be used. Or, the goal may be to explain why a particular data-collection method was selected, how evaluation took place, and how results will be used as part of program improvement.
  • Report results at a level of understanding appropriate for the audience receiving the report. Use language that will be understood by the individuals receiving the report. Explain technical terms. If a statistician is hired, be sure to ask him/her for a layman's description of statistical terms.
  • Keep it short and concise--be careful not to overwhelm. If a written report is lengthy, include a 1-2 page executive summary.
  • Be accurate and be careful to not mislead.
  • Use visual displays, bullet lists, active voice.
  • If other assessment results exist, bring them into the discussion.

Tips for Using Assessment Results

  • Present the results in several ways: face-to-face meeting, written report, workshop format in which the report serves as the springboard for brainstorming possible next steps.
  • Engage the program faculty members, staff, and students in discussions about the results and how they might be used. Questions like these can start the conversation:
    • Do the results live up to our expectations?
    • Are our expectations appropriate? Should expectations be changed?
    • What were the most effective tools to assess student learning? Can those tools be shared and used in other courses or programs?
  • Once there is consensus the action(s) to be taken, create an action plan that describes the actions the program will take, who will take those actions, and the timeline for implementing actions.
  • Monitor changes as they are implemented to determine whether they have the desired effect(s).
  • Keep in mind that even negative results can have a positive effect when they are used to improve the learning process.


Sources consulted:

updated: 1/28/2013