Two Birds with One Stone: Collecting Direct and Indirect Measures

Student learning can be measured using direct and indirect measures. Both categories of measurement are essential to understanding the quality of your program. What if there was a way to collect both types of measurements at one time? It would be like hitting two birds with one stone.

Direct measures of student learning are those that require a student to demonstrate their knowledge and skill level. They may include exams, papers, projects, presentations, and portfolios. Indirect measures are less concrete as they are based on the subjective perspective of our learners. Indirect measures depend upon self-reported data, including surveys, course evaluations, retention, and graduate rates. Higher education institutions must collect an assortment of both direct and indirect measures to demonstrate quality and conduct quality assurance efforts effectively.

The importance of direct measures is fairly evident. Direct measures help you understand if you have successfully taught your students what you aimed to teach them. The importance of indirect measures is not to be underestimated, though.

Why Indirect Measures Matter 

Students no longer start and complete their education at one institution. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 33% of first-time first-year college students will not return to the same institution for the following academic year. What influences these high attrition rates? Many factors, including customer service, finances, scheduling options, personal reasons, and perceived value of education, may play a role.

Now, more than ever, evaluating your teaching, learning environment, facilities, student expectations, and communication processes is essential in setting students up for success and meeting their changing needs and expectations.

indirect measures with student survey data

By collecting indirect measures, higher education institutions can fully understand student satisfaction, including student perception of retained knowledge.

Best Practices for Student Surveys

One of the most common ways to measure student satisfaction is with an online survey. Online surveys are cost-effective and frequently used.  

Tips for online surveys:

  • Design the online survey to be short, less than 10 questions that clearly provide the information administration needs.
  • To increase the response rate, add the survey to a programmatic assessment that occurs at the end of an academic program. Peregrine Global Services’ assessment solutions allow you to add a customizable student survey to an assessment at no additional charge.
  • Utilize a third-party—surveys conducted by a third-party yield more honest and accurate responses from students.
  • Incentivizing student surveys may help get accurate and honest feedback. Consider using a prize or drawing for a prize. Or perhaps you can add additional points to their grade for completion of the survey.  

What Questions Should You be Asking?

The first step in designing your student survey is to understand the goals of your institution. The items you can ask learners for feedback on are vast. Everything, including the cafeteria food quality, the library’s usefulness, perceived achieved competence, and their future workforce or educational plans, can inform decision-making at your institution. Additionally, schools are often interested in gathering demographic information, including whether learners are full-time, part-time, traditional, non-traditional, online, or on campus.

Using a Likert scale, you may choose to ask questions like:

  • Were courses offered frequently enough for timely completion of the degree?
  • Were the courses taught well?
  • Was the program of study challenging or stimulating?
  • Did the student understand the application of learning objectives?
  • Was the curriculum relevant to their academic or professional needs?
  • Were they adequately prepared to satisfactorily complete the course?
  • Did they meet with their advisor?

Using open-ended questions might include:

  • What did they like best about their academic experience?
  • What did they like least about their academic experience?
  • What would they change about their academic experience?

You Have the Data, Now What?

Indirect measures are a part of what drives continuous quality improvement. The data received will help you understand necessary adjustments to teaching methods, curriculum, and overall student support and experience. A focus on continuous improvement, year after year, is vital to a healthy program that meets both students’ and employers’ expectations.

Peregrine Global Services provides you with assessment solutions. Our assessment is more than an exam – it is a comprehensive solution including a customizable student survey and reports to satisfy your indirect measurement needs. Learn more about how we provide you with meaningful data through direct and indirect means by visiting our assessment solution page. Together, we can impact the quality of education.