Assessment should enable students to demonstrate capacities relative to the learning objectives. Learning objectives are typically affects and competencies we seek to instill in our learners using the course content as the tool. The facts and figures matter greatly. Students cannot demonstrate higher order thinking before they remember and understand the material to be manipulated. The affects and competencies may be broad and demonstrable in several different types of assessments. When thinking about types of assessments to include in your course, always start by clarifying your learning objectives.
- What do I want students to know and be able to do when they leave this course/lesson? (Learning Objectives)
- What kinds of tasks/ deliverables will reveal whether students have achieved the learning objectives? (Assessments)
We should not assess what we do not teach. The verbs that lead your learning objectives will be measurable outcomes. Not everything we teach is measurable, but that which we hold the students accountable for should be. How we mark the assessments, the grading process, is a challenging aspect of being an educator. Approaching student work with rigor, compassion, and consistency makes for impactful learning.
The NYU Remote Instruction Support Website, Remote Assessment Methods, and Practices covers in detail technology tools that can help you assess student learning.
One thing to keep in mind when crafting online assessment and discussion prompts is to be as clear and specific as possible.
These tips from Writing Better Questions for Online Assessment can help you with writing better questions for your online assessment.
How to use rubrics in your assessment
A rubric is an assessment tool that lays out specific components and performance expectations for an assignment. It clearly indicates achievement criteria across all the components of any kind of student work, from written to oral to visual and can be used for marking assignments, class participation, or overall grades. Rubrics can ease anxiety about the grading process for both faculty and students as they help staying focused and consistent on expectations. Creating rubrics does require a substantial time investment upfront, but this process will result in reduced time spent grading or explaining assignment criteria down the road.
Quizzes: Good or Bad?
There is not a simple answer to whether quizzes are good or bad. However, quizzing has proven to hold many benefits, and using innovative quiz design can help overcome quiz-related concerns.
Benefits of Quizzing
Cognitive psychology research documents the positive effects of repeated testing on improved academic performance as well as both short-term and long-term retention (Brame & Biel, 2015; Smith & Karpicke 2014). This testing effect is further enhanced by feedback on low-confident correct answers and incorrect answers and can solidify students' understanding of concepts (Butler & Roediger, 2008; Butler et al., 2008). The main advantage of regular quizzes is that they provide ongoing opportunities for retrieval practice.
Concerns & How to Tackle Them
There are concerns regarding repeated testing, including increased test anxiety, reliance on low-level thinking where the right answer is memorized, and the punitive aspect of quizzing. These, however, can be addressed by innovative quiz design. Some ideas include:
- Ungraded quizzes: Ungraded quizzes can reduce test anxiety and lead to higher final test scores than graded quizzes and no quizzes (Khanna, 2015).
- Collaborative quizzes: Collaborative testing can reduce test anxiety, increase confidence, and deepen the engagement with course content by generating discussion among students. Similarly, there is evidence that coupled with open-note quizzing, it can increase the final exam scores (Rezaei, 2015).
This article by Dr. Maryellen Weimer describes an innovative collaborative quiz design used in an introductory pharmaceutical science course.
- Online pretesting quizzes: Online quizzes completed before the class can help professors identify common points of misunderstanding and frequent incorrect answers. The class time can then be used to address these topics. There are results suggesting that pretesting students’ knowledge may prime them for learning (Little & Bjork, 2011). This could also address the concern of using too much of class time for administering quizzes.
More ideas can be found in this special report: Designing Better Quizzes: Ideas for Rethinking Your Quiz Practices by Faculty Focus.