Combining course- and program-level outcomes assessments through embedded performance assessments at key courses: A proposal based on the experience from a Japanese dental education program

  • Kayo Matsushita Center for the Promotion of Excellence in  Higher Education, Kyoto University
  • Kazuhiro Ono Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences, Niigata University
  • Yugo Saito Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Medical and Health Care, Aino University
Keywords: performance assessment, embedded assessment, program-level assessment, curriculum, PBL (problem-based learning), dental education


This paper addresses how to combine the course- and program-level assessments and presents a new method illustrated by a case of dental education program in Japan. Performance assessments are considered effective for evaluating knowledge integration and higher-order skills, while placing a burden on faculty, hence their feasibility as the program-level assessment is regarded lower than standardized tests or questionnaire surveys. We have developed several performance assessments at the course level, such as Modified Triple Jump for the PBL course. Based on this experience, we propose Pivotal Embedded Performance Assessment (PEPA) as a method for combining assessment at the course and program levels. The method limits the range of performance assessment to key courses directly linked to program goals and placed at the critical juncture points of curriculum, while entrusting the assessment of other courses to expert judgment of individual teachers. PEPA consists of the following procedures: systematization of curriculum and selection of key courses; design and implementation of performance assessments by a faculty team; setting passing criteria with incorporating the function of formative assessment; certifying the completion of the degree program. PEPA thus enables maintaining assessment feasibility and compatibility with a credit system, while ensuring assessment validity and reliability.

Received: 27 September 2018
Accepted: 13 November 2018
Published online: 29 November 2018

Author Biographies

Kayo Matsushita, Center for the Promotion of Excellence in  Higher Education, Kyoto University

KAYO MATSUSHITA (, corresponding author, has been a professor at the Center for the Promotion of Excellence in Higher Education and the Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University, Japan, since 2004. She received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in education from Kyoto University, Japan. Her research themes include teaching & learning, curriculum, and assessment in higher education. She advocates “deep active learning,” which combines active learning and deep learning, in her edited book Deep Active Learning: Toward Depth in University Education (Springer, 2017). Classifying learning outcomes assessment into four types along two axes, direct vs. indirect and qualitative vs. quantitative, she mainly focuses on performance assessment. She has developed several performance assessments collaborating with faculty members in fields such as dentistry, physical therapy, and philosophy. She is currently leading a project “Building Disciplinary Reference Points for Curriculum Design and Quality Assurance of University Education” in the field of education studies, as a member of the Science Council of Japan. She is also a council member of the Tuning Japan National Center.

Kazuhiro Ono, Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences, Niigata University

KAZUHIRO ONO ( received D.D.S., Ph.D. from Niigata University, Japan in 1990. He is a professor at the Division of Oral Science for Health Promotion and the Division of Dental Educational Research Development (concurrent post), Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences and a chair of the Student Affairs of the Faculty of Dentistry, Niigata University. He specializes in oral surgery and dental education. He has been leading curriculum and assessment reforms at the Niigata University Faculty of Dentistry, and is one of the influential members in charge of educational programs of both the Department of Dentistry and the Department of Oral Health and Welfare which comprise the Faculty of Dentistry. His recent research topics include active learning, especially problem-based learning, performance assessment of higher-order integrated abilities, and program design. Having been a vice president of Niigata University since 2018, he is also in charge of establishing a system of quality assurance for higher education at Niigata University.

Yugo Saito, Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Medical and Health Care, Aino University

YUGO SAITO (, received B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in education from Kyoto University, Japan. He is an assistant professor at the Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Health Science, Aino University, Japan. He is a member of the Japanese follow-up program “The Assurance of Higher Education through the Development of a Tuning Test Item Bank Global Quality.” He works with a team of engineers seeking to develop a shared understanding of expected learning outcomes in the field of mechanical engineering. His research topics include assessment of higher education learning outcomes, performance assessment, institutional research, learning analytics, and deep active learning. The focus of his research is on how to bridge and combine direct and indirect as well as quantitative and qualitative assessments to support students’ learning and development. In addition, he teaches statistics and information science to paramedical students using “deep active learning” to increase students’ research ability and higher-order thinking skills.


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How to Cite
Matsushita, Kayo, Kazuhiro Ono, and Yugo Saito. 2018. “Combining Course- and Program-Level Outcomes Assessments through Embedded Performance Assessments at Key Courses: A Proposal Based on the Experience from a Japanese Dental Education Program”. Tuning Journal for Higher Education 6 (1), 111-42.