Direct evidence is work students create to satisfy course assignments or program milestones. It can take many forms, such as students' completed homework assignments, papers, exam questions, or presentations. The direct evidence you collect should allow the student to demonstrate how well they have learned the knowledge or skill specified in the program learning outcome (PLO) you are assessing. Because your PLOs describe what a student should know once they complete your program, it is important to collect direct evidence from courses or milestones that take place shortly before graduation in order to assess what they know at that point in time. However, collecting direct evidence from earlier stages of the program is also useful, as this can help identify shortcomings in the curriculum. For example, perhaps students have not developed their written communication skills sufficiently by the time they graduate, and this may be because of a problem with courses normally taken in the first year of the program.
While direct evidence is key to assessing your program's success, indirect evidence can help you better identify why your program is successful or how your program can be improved. Indirect evidence is most commonly collected through feedback from students in the form of surveys, individual interviews, or focus groups. Departments who have engaged in collecting feedback from students have seen that the process is beneficial to the students as well. It helps students see that their professors value their feedback and are invested in their education.
Allowing students to give their feedback to someone who is not affiliated with your program is best, particularly when data is collected in individual interviews or focus groups. This allows them to speak freely and provide you with both the praise and critical feedback that will help you identify your program's strengths and weaknesses. The A-Team is available to collect this data for your program.
For support with how to collect direct or indirect evicence, please contact the A-Team.