Office of Educational Assessment


What helps your learning? “A really good professor – someone who can communicate and knows his subject well, and when you are in the presence of that, you can’t not learn.”

– Student Participant in the University of Washington
Study of Undergraduate Learning (UW SOUL)

“When I see that my questions are not having the results I’ve aimed for, I make a lot of changes”

-UW Faculty Member

UW faculty are at the heart of student learning. They work hard to be effective teachers, assessing their students’ learning in the classroom, at the end of the quarter, and often across quarters. Faculty gather information for their courses from several sources.

Classroom assessment techniques

Since the 1990s, helping faculty use active-learning strategies in the classroom has been one of the priorities of most of the UW’s formal teaching training opportunities, such as Faculty Fellows, the Large Lecture Collegium, and the Institute for Teaching Excellence. Active learning strategies help students engage with the material, ask questions, and participate in their own learning. They also provide faculty with immediate assessment of how well students are understanding concepts and information in the moment – so that faculty can add new examples or further explanation, if needed. In addition, over time, classroom assessment can tell faculty how well students are meeting course-based learning goals.

Classroom assessment ranges from the use of clickers, often integrated with small-group discussion (see Mazur in sources), to papers, projects, and homework that students complete outside class and that faculty review.

Student ratings of instruction

Course evaluations give students a voice in their own learning experience and give faculty members information about their teaching over time. Used with other sources of information, course evaluations can help faculty members think about how to improve their classes. The UW student ratings system, IASystem, provides faculty with a variety of forms to match specific teaching environments. Evaluation summaries present student ratings of the overall quality of the course and the academic challenge of the course in relation to other college courses the students have taken. The UW’s course evaluation system is used by more than 60 institutions across the country, as well as at the UW.

Scholarship of teaching

Classroom-based assessment can become an act of scholarship, as the research of Scott Freeman et al. in the UW's Biology Department shows. Such scholarship is also evidenced each year in the UW’s Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Symposium.


Angelo, T.A. & Cross, K.P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Freeman, S., O’Connor, J.W., Parks, M., Cunningham, D., Hurley, D., Haak, C. Dirks, & M.P. Wenderoth. (2007). Prescribed active learning increases performance in introductory biology. CBE–Life Sciences Education 6: 132-139.

Mazur, E. (1997). Peer instruction: A user’s manual. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.