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Office of Assessment of Teaching and Learning Assessment and Research

Assessment vs. Research

While similar, assessment and research have different purposes, contexts, and limitations.

  • Like research, assessment involves asking specific questions, using good practices, collecting and analyzing evidence, and using results to evaluate claims or hypotheses. Like research, assessment may use quantitative or qualitative methods, and often benefits from mixed methods.
  • Unlike research, assessment lacks control of many outside variables that affect students and instruction, doesn’t include a control group, and isn’t intended to develop theories or test concepts. Many factors limit assessment, including limitations on time, resources, design and implementation.
  • Rather, assessment uses available time and resources to produce reasonably accurate information about student learning in the context of a particular program or institution, which can guide local practice or decisions. For example, decisions about curriculum, teaching techniques, assignments, syllabi, materials, facilities, technology, scheduling, and prerequisites are made regularly and should be informed by assessment.

Programs and faculty may adapt proven assessment approaches and teaching practices to their WSU context. This is an effective approach for assessment in programs as well as courses. ATL can help find evidence-based good practices in your discipline or for a particular method or tool.

For more information on this topic, see Upcraft and Schuh, “Assessment vs Research: Why We Should Care about the Difference,” About Campus, March-April 2002.

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