Assessment of Students, Courses and Programs

AuthorRebecca Purdom - Greg Brandes - Karen Westwood
Assessment of Students, Courses and
A new age of assessment has dawned on all of higher education, and law schools find they are quickly
required to gain expertise in the science of learning. These schools must retool courses and programs and
must even develop a new curricular culture. Online programsin part because of their newness in the
legal education world, and in part because of the inherent necessity of advance design and construction
are leading the way, because they often employ formative assessments in ways other law school courses
do not. This focus extends beyond individual student assessment, and provides insights into course and
programmatic effectiveness, too.
This chapter addresses:
Assessment of student performance. Online instructors and course designers should ensure
that they can provide students with: (1) articulated and clear goals; (2) feedback on students’
progress toward those goals; and (3) final assessments that articulate with particularity the
strengths and weaknesses of a particular performance. With a student population that can feel
isolated by distance, how can assessment tools provide feedback and also increase
Assessment of course effectiveness. With the addition of gradebook and other course-wide
tools, how can institutions use course data to improve the content and delivery of distance
Assessment of program outcomes. How does a school collect, store, retrieve, and analyze data
on student and course performance to establish its claims of student achievement of learning
outcomes? How does the school’s process feed that data back into decision making on an
ongoing basis for iterative improvement of courses and programs?
Assessment of Student Performance
The online learning model, which emphasizes clear learning goals, interactive feedback, and outcomes-
based assessment, provides a new paradigm for legal instruction. Traditionally, many law schools
provided doctrinal classes concluding with a single written exam and a grade at the end of the semester
preceded by little or no assessment or feedback during the semester. In contrast, effective online learning
almost always involves a series of assignments, each of which offers high levels of interactivity between
faculty and students or among students. This interactivity provides multiple opportunities for faculty to
offer feedback, grades, and coaching to improve student performance. These activities, often called
“formative assessments, teach course content while assessing student progress in acquiring and applying

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