The Use of Comprehensive Exit Exams
Lynn Frantz Adkins
Throughout higher education, assessment of students by faculty is a fundamental component of establishing the level of the students' achievement and evaluating the curriculum. Consequently, student assessment occurs at various points in the educational process and for various reasons. On the one hand, evaluation of student performance and learning is an accountability issue, that is, a measure of the degree to which the program is achieving its intended outcomes (see, for example, Slaght, Raskin, and Davis 1995). On the other hand, assessment of students is a gatekeeping issue. Individual students are assessed to determine their readiness to enter the program, to proceed through the sequence of core coursework in the major, to enter the field practicum, and finally to exit the educational program and enter the profession. In order to carry out a program's gatekeeping functions fully, various forms of assessment are needed at the beginning of the program, the end, and at various junctures in between (Moore and Urwin 1990).
Determining who should and who should not be entitled to practice professional social work has been a long-standing concern for social work education and is commonly referred to as gatekeeping. Assessment, as it relates to gatekeeping responsibilities, involves making judgments about actual performance as well as about potential for accomplishment and success, depending on the point in the curriculum at which the assessment takes place. For instance, during admissions screening, judgments are made about a student's potential for success in the major and in the profession