Assessment Measurement Examples

Typically measurements fall into two categories - direct and indirect. A direct measure collects information that relates to a specific objective. Attainment of the objective is obvious and does not need to be inferred. For example, an objective is for students to become proficient in the use of a certain piece of equipment in a science lab. A direct measure could be an instructor observing the student using the equipment and rating the student's proficiency.

An indirect measure also collects information that relates to a specific objective. The difference is that attainment of the objective is inferred from the data collected. For example, with the objective of students becoming proficient in the use of a certain piece of equipment in a science lab - an indirect measure would be a survey asking students to rate how proficient they think they are in using the equipment.

Measurements can take many forms, such as surveys, focus groups, interviews, portfolio evaluations, direct observations, advisory committees, and test results. Short descriptions and examples of uses of each of these types of measurements are listed below.



A survey is a questionnaire typically distributed to a large group of individuals. Surveys are popular because they are easy to distribute and can collect a large amount of data in a short amount of time. Surveys can be printed on paper and handed out or mailed to people. Surveys can also be located on the Web and completed by individuals online. Online surveys give you the advantage of having responses written directly to a data file, making analysis easier. Paper survey responses need to be scanned or manually typed to a data file.

Surveys are typically indirect measures. They ask for people's perceptions, attitudes, and self-reported behavior. However, there are instances when surveys can be direct measures. It depends upon the objective being measured. For example, if the objective is to change students' attitudes on an issue, and you surveyed students asking them to identify their attitudes, the survey would be a direct measure. In this instance an instructor observing students would be an indirect measure, since the instructor has to infer student attitudes based on outside appearances of the students.


Focus groups:

A focus group is a small set of individuals giving input on targeted questions. While surveys collect short answers to many questions, focus groups collect detailed answers to a small number of questions. Surveys can be used to initially identify problem areas that need to be studied in more detail. Focus groups then act as a detailed follow-up. The focus group discussion is typically moderated by someone seen as an objective third-party individual so that participants can feel free to give open, honest feedback. Focus group sessions typically last between an hour and 90 minutes. Focus groups can be direct measures of student attitudes or indirect measures of program success.



Individuals can be asked questions directly one-on-one through an interview process. Examples of interview subjects include exiting seniors, students withdrawing from the university, alumni at a reunion, students filing complaints, students and faculty participating in the Stander Symposium, local employers, and local high school students. Interviews are similar to focus groups in that they ask pointed questions to collect detailed information on specific topics. Interviews are direct measures of people's attitudes and indirect measures of program success.


A portfolio is a collection of finished work. In the academic setting a portfolio typically contains student papers, exams, and projects. Student work is then evaluated by a group of raters who use a consistent set of standards. For the purposes of assessing student attainment of an outcome portfolios are typically randomly selected from the total population of students enrolled in a course or program (unless the total population is small enough to allow time to evaluate the work of every student). Student work is reviewed by two or more experts who assign ratings on various aspects of the work; an average score is then calculated for each outcome for each student. Students' attainment of the goals is determined by reviewing the rating scores of the student work. Portfolios are direct measures of student success.

Direct Observations:

If a program objective is for a certain skill to be demonstrated by a student, direct observation of a student doing that skill is one of the best measurements to use. Typically the instructor or another expert in the field watches the student do the skill then rates the student's competence. Sometimes a small group of raters observe the student and provide feedback. Observations are a direct measure of student success.

Advisory committees:

Some programs collect feedback from a group of experts made up of constituents from both inside and outside of the university. The experts can be professors, local employers, legislators, business leaders, parents, students, or others deemed important for their feedback. Committee members give advice on the direction of the program and feedback as seen from their vantage point. Advisory committees are indirect measures of program success.

Test results:

Some student learning objectives can be measured by collecting information on student performance on tests. An instructor does not need to use the entire test score in the assessment; sometimes a subset of test items can be used. For example, if an objective is for students to master a particular skill, and that skill is tested in a few questions on an exam, the instructor can evaluate attainment of the skill by looking at just those relevant questions on the exam.

Tests can also be used to evaluate attainment of objectives in a professional field. If graduates need to pass a test in order to obtain a professional license, then looking at achievement on those tests is an easy and effective way to measure student performance.

Test results are direct measures of student success.

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