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How Assessments Help to Drive Change

By: Bessie O'Connor, RDN

  • Thursday, October 15, 2020
  • 4 Minute Read   

Dairy Council of California creates science-based nutrition education curriculum that establishes healthy eating habits during childhood and provides a foundation for lifelong health. To effectively support healthier communities, assessing the impact of our resources is critical. Last year, nearly 4,000 students’ completed the integrated pre and post-tests which are available online. We encourage educators to integrate the learning assessments into their nutrition education lesson plans to measure students’ progress and provide valuable feedback to inform our curriculum design.

Test Results Measure Learning  

Data collected from 325 1st-8th grade students who completed the pre- and post-surveys in the 2019-2020 school year shows increased nutrition knowledge and improved eating behaviors. Grade-specific, the assessment test focuses on measuring students’ broader understanding of nutrition, such as food group knowledge, how to create balanced meals and the benefits of the different food groups. Highlights of these early results include: 

  •  An average of 13% increase in scores across all students. 
  • Highest retention was among 3rd and 4th grade students, whose scores increased by up to 20%.
  • 5th grade students improved their ability to connect food groups to main nutrients significantly helping them understand why eating foods from the different food groups is important. See Figure 1.

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Figure 1 Pre and post-test matched student score changes matching food groups with main nutrients. 

Collecting Student Feedback

Through data collection, schools can quantify and qualify the value of nutrition education to students by showing increased knowledge, improved eating behaviors and student endorsement. Through pre- and post-assessments, schools can measure direct impact. By layering assessments with student feedback, schools can also hear how students are applying the skills and knowledge they learned to real life situations. For example, 51% of middle school students reported that they achieved at least one nutrition goal they had set for themselves in the pre-test. Students shared: 

  • “I reached my goals by learning how to make smart food choices. I used to choose sugary foods for breakfast and now I choose foods from the food groups.”
  • “I reached my goal by getting water instead of soda and ordering a salad instead of fries at restaurants.”

While measuring test results help demonstrate increased knowledge, capturing how students apply that knowledge in real life situation demonstrates deeper understanding, illustrating how nutrition education provides an essential life skill that builds a foundation for healthy eating that can last a lifetime.

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Using Pre- and Post-Assessment Tests

Accessing our free, online pre- and post-tests are easy, and include a short tutorial video showing how to use them. By utilizing nutrition education curriculum with pre and post-tests, you can help elevate student health and measure the difference nutrition education has on their behavior.


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Bessie O'Connor, RDN

Bessie O'Connor, RDN

Bessie is a practicing Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and the Community Nutrition Adviser for California’s Central Coast region.

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