Evaluation Toolkit Overview
About Evaluation and Assessment
Educational measurement, that is, the measure of learning often falls under the umbrella terms evaluation and assessment. Often very close in perceived definition and commonly used interchangeably, we will attempt to clarify the complex definitions of how Earth System Science Education understands and uses these terms.
Assessment is a summative or final measurement of activities or competencies against established criteria. It refers to the collection of data to describe or better understand an issue.
Evaluation is an ongoing process of measuring progress against expected outcomes at particular stages and is formative in nature, though, of course, there are summative evaluations as well. It refers to the comparison of data to a standard or a stated objective for the purpose of judging worth or quality.
Without unanimous agreement by educational practitioners, most would concur that evaluation covers more than assessment and involves making judgments about the merit, quality, or worth of something while assessment is said to primarily involve characterizations, mostly objective descriptions.
Evaluation comes with a host of perspectives and methodologies. We will describe a few of the terms most relevant to the work in ESSE.
Educational evaluation generally measures phenomena in:
Cognitive domain - What students are learning: studentsí intellectual ability; what content they know and understand. Some common examples of cognitive domain instruments are final exams, projects, quizzes. These help both students and instructors know how and what the student is learning; have they learned the material?
Affective domain - What students think about this course or approach: studentsí attitudes, values, interests, awareness; what they think about their learning experiences. Some common examples of affective domain instruments are attitude surveys (both pre and pre-post) or interviews about studentsí thoughts about science. These help instructors and departments understand how students feel about a new course, if they detect anything different, is the material interesting, etc.
Diagnostic assessments - Student knowledge when they first come to this course: assessments taken at the beginning of a course to ascertain studentsí level of content or perceptions of the subject (Earth System Science, Remote Sensing, etc.)
Formative assessments - During the course: assessments taken regularly throughout the course that help the instructor or program director re-orient the teaching during the course to address studentsí learning needs.
Summative assessments - After the course: assessments taken at the end of the course or program to determine what has been learned or what has been accomplished.
Tools and Uses
The many types of evaluations and assessments found in Earth System Science fall into two broad categories: Tools (techniques, instruments) and Uses (how they are used), which is how we categorize them. This list is by no means exhaustive in terms of the larger evaluation and assessment repertoire; we only have catalogued those used and found useful in the ESSE projects.