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Skidmore College
Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment at Skidmore College

Value-Added Assessment (Pre- and Post-testing)


Value-added assessment attempts to measure student growth over time, from the time that a student enters a program until the student graduates.  The most common method is pre- and post-testing, although other types of evidence could conceivably be developed.


  • Assessing the students when they first enter a program can establish a firm benchmark against which to measure growth or value-added.

  • Pre-testing is especially helpful for measuring student knowledge, or cognitive learning, and skills, though somewhat less so for measuring values.

  • Pre- and post-testing may work best with traditional four-year undergraduates rather than the more common situation now where students enter, stop-out, transfer, return, and take six years or more to graduate.

  • Pre- and post-testing can be easily scored.

  • Pre- and post-testing can be relatively easily analyzed using statistical procedures.


  • Pre- and post-testing offers little useful information if the students know little or nothing about the subject of the program when they first enter it.

  • Deciding how to develop meaningfully comparable pre- and post-assessments is difficult, since the pre-test may have to be so basic that any additional learning could be seen as "growth" or value-added.

  • If the assessment is not based upon a highly structured curriculum where the objectives are taught toward and adhered to across all courses in a systematic, it may be difficult to demonstrate the causes of the value-added or to correlate the results of the post-test with the specific courses within the curriculum.

Varieties of Value-added Assessments:

Note:  Virtually all other assessment methods can be used for value-added assessment.  Pre- and post-testing happens to be the most common form.

Pre- and post-tests:  These provide concrete data that could be easily scored analyzed using statistical procedures.

Portfolios:  Portfolios are almost impossible to construct for the pre- assessment.

Essays or research papers:  If the assignments and criteria are carefully constructed, these can be scored using a common rubric.

Embedded assessments:  The type of student work used as an embedded pre- and post-assessment will probably be one of the above.  But you could also embed a common assessment, such as a test item or a research task, in a set of courses across all years of the student's program.

Standardized tests:  Commercial testing agencies and companies have produced a variety of standardized tests that could be used for this purpose.  See the discussion of standardized tests for the advantages and disadvantages.

Creating and designing a value-added assessment system:

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

  2. List the kinds of student work that students might include to demonstrate mastery of the learning outcomes;

  3. List the specific knowledge, skills, and/or values that you might want to measure through a value-added process;

  4. Decide upon the type of pre- and post-assessment that you will use;

  5. Determine which faculty will create the pre- and post-assessment or review examples of commercially available tests for this purpose;

  6. Decide when and where the pre- and post-assessments will occur;

  7. Decide how the assessments will be evaluated and analyzed;

  8. If the pre-assessment is given when students first enter the program, inform those in-coming students that they will be given a pre-assessment, especially if it is to be given outside of a particular class.