Educators use indirect and direct assessment methods to determine what students have learned; identify weaknesses in skills development, comprehension or delivery of course content; and refine or adjust teaching strategies accordingly. Each type of assessment has its strengths and weaknesses, but a combination of the two presents a more comprehensive view of teaching effectiveness.

Direct Assessment Methods

Direct assessment involves evaluating tangible, observable products of student learning. These methods can include standardized testing, curriculum-based testing, exams and quizzes. When test questions are aligned with the learning objectives, they can be accurate measures of whether the desired student learning has taken place. In addition to tests and exams, direct assessments include evaluating homework assignments, research papers and other projects. Performances, speeches or presentations can also assist you in determining whether students have met set objectives.

Indirect Assessment Methods

Indirect assessments involve students providing feedback on their learning through surveys, focus groups and interviews. Using these indirect methods, you can obtain information about students' thoughts on what and how they learned and use the students' own perceptions for assessment and evaluation of your course.

Direct Assessment Strengths and Weaknesses

Direct assessment measures provide you with documented evidence of performance improvements, skills or content mastery. However, quizzes, exams and standardized tests may not always measure the concepts they attempt to measure. Many tests offer multiple-choice, matching or true-false items, giving students the opportunity to guess and tests may measure a student's test-taking skills rather than mastery of the material.

Indirect Assessment Strengths and Weaknesses

Indirect assessments can provide instructors with immediate feedback. Information from students received from an impromptu class poll or quick survey, for example, allows you to decide the direction of your lecture, taking the class discussion deeper into the topic, reviewing an earlier point or moving on to new material. Although indirect assessment can provide valuable information on the quality of learning, and perhaps can help guide you in making improvements in the course, it does not provide specific evidence of student learning and meeting teaching objectives.