ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING OUTCOMES IN BIOLOGY
The assessment of learning outcomes is a key concept in the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) since credits are awarded when the assessment shows the competences which were aimed at have been developed at an appropriate level. In Spain a Royal Decree (RD 1393/2007) established the generic competences which any student with a university degree must have developed; these include understanding basic and gradually more advanced scientific texts; problem solving; looking for, selecting and using information to solve problems or making decisions and, finally, the capacity to learn independently, all of them in the students’ specific fields of study. At a time of high interest in competence based higher education reliable and valid devices to asses competences in a reliable and valid way a needed. Developing adequate procedures to assess transferable competences needs time and effort and is, therefore, costly. This study was carried out with the overall goal to gain experience in the assessment of learning outcomes.
More specifically it aimed at:
1) designing procedures for the assessment of learning outcomes related to these compulsory generic competences;
2) testing some basic psychometric features that an assessment device with some consequences for the subjects being evaluated needs to prove;
3) testing different procedures of standard setting, and
4) using assessment results as orienting feedback to students and their tutors.
The process of development of tests to carry out the assessment of learning outcomes related to these competences, as well as some basic features regarding their reliability and validity is described and first results on the comparison of results achieved at two academic levels also be described.
The main achievement of this study seems to be that indeed we have succeeded, at least in a first phase, in the development of a procedure to measure learning outcomes which can be taken as a base for future developments. However, it must be acknowledged this process takes much time and effort and is probably best approached as a multidisciplinary endeavor. However, it seems efforts of this sort need to be done in order to guarantee that students are assessed by means of procedures which have proved their objectivity and measure what they are in effect supposed to measure. Several lines of reasoning seem to be relevant in this respect. On the one hand, the experience of development and use of the procedures described was most enriching for all participants and it could be said, it was a great opportunity for teachers’ professional development and it prompted them to use similar procedures for developing competences.