Examples of direct/curriculum-embedded assessment

Example 1: Exam

This example shows questions from a first-year physics exam, each of which addresses an Educational Goal (these are generic program level goals that are typical for physics undergraduate programs). Note that not every question on an exam will be equally suitable for addressing an Educational Goal, and not every goal will be addressed on an exam (in this case, for example, experimental skills).

Exam question

Educational Goal: At the end of the program, students will be able to …

A merry-go-round with a mass of 250 kg and diameter of 3 m is spinning at 20 rpm. Little Timmy runs tangent to the merry-go-round at 5 m/s, in the same direction that it is turning, and jumps onto the outer edge. Timmy’s mass is 30 kg. What is the merry-go-round’s angular velocity after he jumps on?

Model real-world phenomena quantitatively and qualitatively by identifying and applying the relevant physical principles and using mathematical tools.

A soccer player kicks a ball in a high arc towards the goal. Assuming that air resistance is negligible, which statement about the ball’s speed at the highest point of its path is correct?
a. It is smaller than its initial speed.
b. It is larger than its initial speed.
c. It is equal to its initial speed.
d. It is zero.

Assess the quality and reliability of resources and scientific statements.

You drop a rock in a castle well and hear that it hits the ground after 5.13 s. How deep is the well? Which approximation do you have to make to be able to solve this problem?

Solve problems quantitatively using mathematical tools and evaluate the quality and limitations of the solution.

Alice and Bob are arguing about physics. Bob says, “An object always moves in the direction of the net force acting on it.” Alice says, “No, there are situations where that is not true, for example …” Is Alice right? If so, what would be an example? If not, why not?

Communicate and explain physical phenomena in written, spoken, or other formats suitable for a given audience.

Example 2: Paper

This is an example from the last of three papers in a required upper-division writing-intensive science course. The course involves the design, analysis, and presentation of experiments, in typical journal format for the subdiscipline. The table shows a simple marking rubric (much more detailed rubrics were used for the earlier papers, to guide revision and improvement), and maps the rubric to some of the Educational Goals for the undergraduate major. The instructor used parentheses to indicate components of the Educational Goals not addressed in the assignment.

The marks from this assignment could be used to show the level of mastery of the skills listed in the Educational Goals, to inform program assessment. If there was also assessment of these Educational Goals in an earlier course, the program could consider the amount of improvement, given the focus on teaching these particular skills over the course of the program. If similar data were collected on earlier papers within the course, the instructor could also learn whether the methods used to instruct students about scientific writing result in improved performance over the semester.


Program goal

Intro well organized, sets up problem well


Methods clear, related to hypothesis

Goal 3: Articulate testable hypotheses (and design experimental or sampling protocols to test them).

Results presentation is informative

Goal 5: Use appropriate methods for quantitative analysis and graphical representation of data, and for interpreting results.

Discussion interprets results scientifically

Goal 8: Develop coherent arguments supported by relevant and credible evidence.

Discussion relates results to literature

Goal 7: Identify sources that provide evidence-based scientific information.

Overall quality and clarity of writing





Goal 9: Communicate effectively using (oral, visual, and) written communication including writing for a scientific, (government, industry or general) audience.

Example 3: Artistic performance

The example below is adapted from the assessment plan of the Theatre and Dance Department in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Fredonia State University of New York.

Assessment criteria and procedures

Educational Goals for the acting program

Acting juries occur at the conclusion of each semester until the senior year. An acting jury is comprised of two monologues taken from existing texts.

Following each jury, students are given oral feedback by the performance faculty as to their progress concerning the following: level of mastery in vocal skills, movement skills, embodiment of character, pursuit of objectives, tactics, spontaneity, commitment level, etc.

During the final year, the student produces a recital before a public audience. The performance is followed by private informal critique session with the performance faculty, and a grade is assigned.

Demonstrated ability to act, i.e., to project one’s self believably in word and action into imaginary circumstances, evoked improvisationally and/or through text.

Demonstrated ability to characterize convincingly from plays drawn from different genres and styles alone and in an ensemble relationship with other actors.

A developed technique for analyzing and performing varied characters from written plays.

Clear and articulate speech, free of regionalism, normally with demonstrated ability to use the International Phonetic Alphabet to learn and perform foreign dialects, demonstrated ability to analyze and scan verse drama and to perform convincingly in verse plays.

A flexible, strong and controlled voice with trained breath support; appropriate vocal range and freedom from vocal and postural tension in rehearsal and performance; demonstrated ability to project the voice effectively.

A flexible, relaxed and controlled body trained in basic stage movement disciplines and a demonstrated ability to use the body effectively on stage as an instrument for characterization.