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Skidmore College
Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment at Skidmore College

What is "primary trait analysis"?

Primary trait analysis is a way for faculty to specify the exact criteria against which they will judge student work. Using it, faculty create a scale for grading or scoring student work. To create this scale, they must (1) identify the exact characteristics that they will be looking for; (2) construct a scale; and (3) evaluate the student's work against the scale. The scale can be changed for each type of assignment or task that the student is asked to complete. Most important for the students' benefit, when they know the traits that their work will be judged against, they can more knowledgeably address the assignment. For purposes of program assessment, faculty can construct primary trait scales for each of the types of student work that they will be evaluating, whether the evidence for the assessment is provided by the student portfolios, essays, science projects, mathematical solutions, case study analyses, or whatever. A major benefit of primary trait analysis to the assessment process is that it is a tool for faculty to use when working to reach consensus on what is worth evaluating in student work. For a discussion of primary trait analysis as used in one discipline, go here.