Assessment in STEAM Education: How to Assess Student Learning and Growth in STEAM Subjects

assess student learning

Have you ever heard your child or student complain about their written exam, but claim to have known the material? Often, students have learned many new things, but it may take different methods for them to show their strengths and knowledge. Today, we’re going to examine both direct and indirect ways to assess student learning and growth in STEAM subjects! 

Direct Measures 

One way to measure student growth in STEAM subjects is through direct measures. Direct measures are what schools usually use to assess student learning, and the methods provide tangible and visible evidence of what the students have learned. Direct measures for assessment focus on physical work and projects that can undergo examination. 

Electronic Portfolios 

Portfolios are a well-used form of measuring a student’s growth and are utilized in elementary and graduate-level education. Electronic portfolios, specifically, are helpful because they can be easily shared and updated. These portfolios are an exemplary way of assessing student learning and growth in STEAM subjects because as students complete assignments and projects, the teacher can gauge if their students are advancing to more difficult and creative work. In classes like Careers and Architectural Design Skills, students complete a comprehensive architectural design project, which would contribute to building that student’s portfolio; it would also be a tangible way to assess what other projects the student has completed and succeeded in. 

Laboratory Tests

Written tests determine a student’s ability to recall information, but laboratory assessments determine a student’s ability to put the information into practice. A student might be able to explain the parts of a microscope in an open-response question, but asking a student to adjust parts of a microscope in an exam takes the learning one step further. In laboratory tests, a student can demonstrate growth from head knowledge to practical knowledge. STEAM classes are typically hands-on, such as Intro to Wearable Technologies and Intro to Drawing and Animation; therefore, the best way to assess a student’s learning and growth is through hands-on laboratory testing! For example, instead of asking a student to explain how an app works, watch them teach you how to use the app. 

Oral Presentations

Oral presentations test how well students know their material. In this type of assessment, students demonstrate their knowledge of a subject and how well they can explain a subject to others. Students are challenged to convey the material to those who know little to nothing about their project, which assesses how well a student understands the foundational transferable topics. Oral presentations also allow for a Q&A, which enables students to think critically and converse with their peers.  

Indirect Measures 

As opposed to direct measures, indirect measures are a more creative way to gauge how well a student is grasping the material. Indirect measures supplement direct measures and emphasize how a student perceives their learning and whether they are utilizing their knowledge outside of the classroom.  


Similar to an oral presentation, but ungraded and one-on-one, students can demonstrate their knowledge through interviews with their teachers or administration. One way to utilize interviews is to have an entrance and exit interview. In this format, students answer a series of questions regarding the material before starting the class, and then they answer those same questions after the class for teachers to assess their growth. Because some students buckle under pressure and anxiety with formal exams, interviews can also be a causal way to evaluate a student’s learning in their STEAM subjects.

Self-Report Survey

Self-report surveys are an excellent way to discern how students perceive their own growth and learning. Through this indirect assessment for STEAM subjects, teachers can understand how well students think they grasp material and how challenging the class has been. These surveys also allow students to let their teachers know what is and isn’t working in the course. Students don’t typically vocalize how they learn best and where they’re getting confused, so surveys enable students to have a voice in how they learn. Students can offer suggestions for improvement while demonstrating how much they have learned from the class! 

Out-Of-Class Involvement 

A surefire way to assess a student’s learning and growth in STEAM subjects is to observe their out-of-class involvement in the field they’re studying. Are the students in the Intro to Drawing and Animation class creating projects in their free time? Do they design comic strips for fun? Are they submitting their work to local art competitions or seeking internships? This type of out-of-class involvement can show how passionate students are about what they are learning! Even if students aren’t creating additional projects, are they discussing their classes with their peers or parents? Because of the practical benefits, teachers should encourage their students to put into practice what they’re learning in their community!

Why Assess Student Learning and Growth? 

We need to destigmatize going to school just for a degree. Education should be fun for students, and that is why we should seek to cultivate creativity in learning for STEAM subjects! To ensure that we’re not just throwing information at students, which is going in one ear and out the other, we need to constantly evaluate if students are truly growing in education. By using direct and indirect measures, alternating between examinations such as tests and surveys, students can demonstrate their growth for assurance that their learning is moving from their heads to their hands! 

Looking for Accessible STEAM Education? 

As we move into the twenty-first century, STEAM subjects are becoming essential for students to learn. Getting familiar with technology and learning to use and create it opens a wide field of jobs. Here at 21stCentEd, we are passionate about helping young people prepare for a bright future in which their STEAM skills will help them find jobs that will be relevant in this digital age.

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About 21stCentEd

At 21stCentEd, a strong tomorrow is what we’re all about. We’ve been deeply invested in creating interactive STEM tools for kids for many years.