There are as many ways for students to demonstrate what they've learned as there are courses, majors, and departments or programs. The type of assessment that makes the most sense in a particular circumstance has partly to do with the type of department or program in question and partly to do with the level at which the assessment is taking place.
For example, while language departments could assess student learning in a wide range of ways other than nationally standardized language exams, such standardized exams make sense for language departments in ways they simply don't for other types of Colorado College departments such as English or Anthropology.
Assessment often takes place in the capstone but can just as easily take place in a non-capstone course, especially if there is something particularly special or meaningful about the course (gateway courses, methods courses, theory courses, technical skills courses, upper-level seminars, or particularly popular electives).
Assessment approaches at the capstone level can include:
- Theses, tutorial papers or substantive research papers on any topic and using any research methodology
- National standardized exams, historically used in some science departments
- Oral exams, such as the one comprising part of the Feminist and Gender Studies exit interview (a mix of direct and indirect assessment)
- Standardized language tests
- Other in-house capstone-level exams
- Oral presentation of research (may include a poster in science departments)
- Portfolio of assignments from across the major, often including a final reflection paper
- Capstone-level creative project (writnig, artwork, musical composition, original play, choreographed dance)
- Capstone-level performance (music, theater, dance)
- Capstone-level demonstration of technical skills (student teaching in a classroom)
Most of the above capstone-level assessment approaches can be modified to take place at the course level as well, regardless of whether the course is an introduction, a capstone course, or something in between. For example, research papers, exams, oral presentations, and individual creative or performance projects can be and have been assessed at the course level, in some cases even for the purpose of department/program-level assessment. Additional assessment approaches at the course level could include:
- Specific assignments (close reading in English, fieldwork in Geology, lab work in Molecular Biology, interviewing project in Anthropology)
- Questions on course evaluations that could involve either direct or indirect assessment, similar to the FGS exit interview mentioned above
Once a department or program considers carrying out assessment in more complex ways, other possibilities emerge. A department could develop an identical assignment to be completed in courses at two different levels (a 200-level course and a 300-level course, for example, or a junior seminar and a senior seminar). Similarly, a department or program might seek to compare how well students are learning in its theory course and its methods course by developing parallel assessment assignments and pursuing them during the same year.
Ultimately, while there are common approaches to assessment as suggested here, creative approaches are possible and should be pursued if a creative demonstration of learning is the best way to get at what the department or program most wants to know.