Assessing the Basic Course

Assessment of the Basic Course is a practice in which all programs should engage. Assessment refers to the practice of using both direct measures (e.g., outlines, exams, portfolios, speeches) and indirect measures (e.g., graduate rates, job placement, and GRE scores) to evaluate the degree to which course and program learning outcomes are achieved.

State legislatures, accrediting bodies, program review teams, university administrators, and Department Chairs are all interested in knowing whether the Basic Course is doing its job in helping undergraduate students attain course and program learning outcomes. Assessment is valuable for Basic Course Directors because it identifies strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. Although assessment can be a daunting task, it provides evidence that is useful when advocating for the resources that are needed to sustain a high-quality course.

The links below offer a brief explanation of course assessment, identify a host of instruments that instructors can use to assess student learning in the Basic Course, and provide access to research articles conducted on Basic Course assessment.

What is assessment? 

According to Katherine Denker of Ball State University, assessment is a large part of today’s academia and should include both formative and summative work. When instructors solicit student feedback, using that information to shape later instruction, they are utilizing formative assessment or assessment for learning. Formative assessment can be conducted via muddiest point activities or through classroom use of student response systems. Summative assessment, or assessment of learning, answers questions at the end of the course such as what percentage of students demonstrate competency with a concept. Faculty can conduct summative assessment by evaluating final speeches using the NCA Competent Speaker Speech Evaluation Form rubric, or by evaluating overall student success with different concepts on their final exams.

What instruments can be used to assess the Basic Course? 

The AAC&U provides well-developed rubrics to measure collegiate learning, including oral communication, critical thinking, and other skills that are important in the Basic Course.  The rubrics are free and can be downloaded from the link above.

This form can be used to evaluate speeches in class, for test-out, for instructing and advising students, and to generate department or institutional assessment data.

These instruments can be used to assess the degree to which a course increases students’ willingness to communicate and reduces students’ communication apprehension.

These documents detail expected outcomes for speaking and listening for the Basic Course, General Education, Basic Skills, and Advanced Skills.

This instrument is a multi-trait, multi-method approach to assessing interpersonal communication competence.

What recent research articles have been written on Basic Course assessment? 

This article examines how students evaluate one of their public speaking presentations, and how these evaluations are related to their estimates of the grade received for the presentation.

This article assesses whether the Learning Loss scale--a measure of cognitive learning--is correlated with both a performative measure of cognitive learning and student exam scores.

This article demonstrates how departments can assess large Basic Courses by assessing the degree to which a large multi-section Basic Course reduced public speaking anxiety for students across campus.

This article explores the relationship between the amount of time students spend completing service-learning projects and their achievement of service-learning outcomes in the Basic Course. 

This article assesses the effectiveness of using “clickers” in the Basic Course to enhance student learning.

This article identifies Basic Course students’ preferences for the course materials that they report facilitate their learning.

This article examines the positive outcomes and the problems community partners identify in regard to the service learning projects completed by students enrolled in an interpersonal/small group communication course.

This article examines the extent to which students’ ego-involvement with a speech topic is related to their selection of a speech topic, preparation time and activities, and grades received on an informative speech and a persuasive speech.

This article explores how students’ commitment, trust, relational satisfaction, and learning differ as a result of the method used to select their group members in a classroom group.  

This article examines the readability level of 22 Basic Course textbooks.

  • Meyer, Kurtz, Hines, Simonds, & Hunt (2010)/Assessing preemptive argumentation in students’ persuasive speech outlines* 

This article examines students’ use (i.e., quantity, quality) of preemptive argumentation in their persuasive speech outlines.

  • Simonds, Meyer, Hunt, & Simonds (2009)/Speech evaluation assessment: An analysis of written speech feedback on instructor evaluation forms in the basic communication course* 

This article provides the results of a portfolio assessment conducted in the Basic Course at Illinois State University.

  • Meyer, Hunt, Comadena, Simonds, Simonds, & Baldwin (2008)/Assessing classroom management training for basic course instructors* 

This article reviews the effects of proactively training GTAs on classroom management at two points in time during a semester.

This article uses a pre-test/post-test design to assess the effectiveness of information literacy instruction in the Basic Course.

This article content analyzes 369 student samples of a writing assignment (i.e., an application essay) to assess the effectiveness of the assignment and to subsequently modify the assignment.

* This manuscript is available through The Basic Communication Course Annual and can be accessed at