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Skidmore College
Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment at Skidmore College

Embedded Assessments

Definition:

Embedded assessments are assessments that make use of the actual work that students produce in their courses.  The assessments may simply select from work that students do in various courses or may be designed overtly for assessment purposes and then incorporated into the courses.  Embedded assessments are also referred to as "classroom-based" or "continuous" assessments.  The faculty teaching the courses give grades to the students, but the work selected for assessment is evaluated with program goals in mind and not used for grading.  The results of the assessments should not be used to evaluate the faculty teaching the courses.

Advantages:

  • The students are simply fulfilling the normal requirements of the course(s) and so do not know that their work is being used for assessment purposes, thereby eliminating issues related to motivation;

  • Embedded assessments can be used to evaluate developmental stages of student learning, rather than simply being summative or assessments at the end of the students' programs;

  • The assessment process is integrated into the work of both faculty and students;

  • Designing an assessment process enables faculty to consider which skills or knowledge might best be introduced at which levels or in which sequence;

  • There is a clear link between what is taught and what is assessed;

  • Embedded assessment assignments that do not provide reliable information can be redesigned;

  • Results can be compiled quickly by instructors reporting the results to the faculty;

  • Results can be shared with students as a group, allowing them to understand better the criteria that faculty expect them to meet and helping them to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses.

Disadvantages:

  • More complex assignments, such as research papers and projects, will have to be evaluated by a group of faculty using rubrics, thereby requiring more time;

  • Test scores in and of themselves will not provide satisfactory data;

  • Faculty teaching courses must include the embedded assessments that the program faculty decide upon;

  • Assigning appropriate weight to the individual assignments may be difficult.

Varieties of Embedded Assessments:

Examinations:

Specific questions can be inserted into specific examinations for the purpose of assessment.  Entire examinations need not be used for assessment unless the faculty believe it best to do so.  The faculty conducting the assessment of student responses will need to decide upon the criteria for rating them.  For example, are you looking for specific concepts or skills in the student responses?  Note:  some departments have categorized the types of questions used on examinations to determine whether they are reasonably distributed according to the program goals or may be skewed too much or too little for some goals.

Research Papers and Projects:

These major projects can be evaluated by using a rubric (see, for example, the discussion of rubrics for portfolio assessments).  Faculty should decide upon the criteria to be used for the assessments before the actual assignments are given to the students.

Field Experiences or Internships:

Student work produced as a result of the field work or internships can be used to assess their learning, work such as logs, field notes, and observations.

Creating and Designing Embedded Assessments:

  1. Determine the specific broad learning objectives for the academic program;

  2. If you have not already done so, determine how those are translated into the individual courses;

  3. Conduct an inventory of the types of assignments given in the various courses;

  4. Decide which assignments would serve assessment purposes as they are and which might have to be modified to accommodate the assessment;

  5. Integrate the embedded assessments within the courses;

  6. Devise a way to gather the results of the assessments and translate those results for the entire faculty;

  7. Determine strengths and weaknesses of the students as a result of the assessments;

  8. Make appropriate changes to the curriculum if that is indicated or to the assessments when they do not provide the information desired.