Linda Suskie

 A Common Sense Appr​oach to Assessment in Higher Education


Essential assessment books

Posted on December 17, 2015 at 7:55 AM

A newcomer to higher education assessment recently asked me for advice on readings to get up to speed on assessment. Here are eight books I recommend for every assessment practitioner’s bookshelf.


Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide by Linda Suskie: I wrote the first edition of this over a decade ago, when I realized there was no basic soup-to-nuts primer on student learning assessment in higher education. My knack is using a plainspoken style that strips away the jargon, so this is a good choice for assessment newcomers.


Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment in College by Barbara Walvoord and Virginia Anderson: This is my second favorite assessment book after my own. The language is even simpler than mine! With its focus on the grading process, it’s a great way to help faculty look at assessments in their courses and introduce them to many important assessment ideas that apply to program and general education assessments as well.


How to Create and Use Rubrics for Formative Assessment and Grading by Susan Brookhart: I read this book this summer, and it completely changed my thinking about rubrics. Brookhart has a fairly narrow vision of how rubrics should be developed and used, but she offers persuasive arguments for doing things her way. I’m convinced that her approach will lead to sounder, more useful rubrics.


Assessment Essentials: Planning, Implementing, and Improving Assessment in Higher Education by Trudy Banta and Catherine Palomba: This is another soup-to-nuts primer on student learning assessment in higher education. While my book Assessing Student Learning focuses on assessment techniques, Trudy and Catherine spend more time on organizing and implementing assessment, making the two books great companions.


Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses by L. Dee Fink. Dee and I are both big proponents of “backwards curriculum design”: identify course learning outcomes, identify how students will demonstrate achievement of those outcomes by the end of the course, then design learning activities to prepare students to demonstrate achievement successfully. So Dee’s book presents an important context for assessment: its role in the overall teaching process.


Learning Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty by Elizabeth Barkley and Claire Major: This successor to the classic Classroom Assessment Techniques won’t be out until mid-January, but I had the privilege of reading the manuscript. Elizabeth and Claire have expanded and reconceptualized CATs into a fresh set of learning and assessment tools that faculty will find invaluable.


Five Dimensions of Quality: A Common Sense Guide to Accreditation and Accountability by Linda Suskie: I wrote this book after working for one of the U.S. regional accreditors for seven years and consulting for colleges in all the other U.S. regions. I found myself espousing the same basic principles over and over, including principles for obtaining and using meaningful, useful assessment evidence. Those principles are the foundation of this book.


Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher Education by George Kuh, Stan Ikenberry, Natasha Jankowski, Timothy Cain, Peter Ewell, Pat Hutchings, and Jillian Kinzie. George and his colleagues echo one of the major themes of my book Five Dimensions of Quality: if assessment is going to work, it has to be for you, not your accreditor. Their book is a powerful argument for moving from a compliance approach to one that makes assessment meaningful and consequential. If you feel your college is simply going through the assessment motions, this book will give you plenty of practical ideas.

Categories: Assessment resources