Choosing appropriate assessments

Vary assessments
Student learning styles vary widely, and their strengths and challenges with respect to assessment vary as well.  Instructors need to consider that variation as they choose assessments for their courses.  By varying the way we assess student understanding, we are more likely to offer opportunities for every student to demonstrate their knowledge.  This can be accomplished by creating courses with three or more forms of assessment, for example papers, class projects and exams.  This can also be accomplished by offering choices of how to be assessed, for example giving students the option of writing a paper or taking an exam for a unit of instruction, as long as by the end of a course they have done both forms of assessment.  This might also be accomplished by offering multiple questions, and having students choose which to answer.  New faculty members should think creatively how to best elicit quality student responses.

Consider intervals for assessment
The frequency of assessment varies widely from course to course.  Some classes assess only twice, on a midterm and a final.  Others have weekly assignments, presentations and homework.  Think about the frequency with which your students should be assessed, based on the knowledge that assessment drives learning by focusing student attention, energy, and motivation to learn.  New faculty members need to try various intervals and choose those that best support their students’ learning.

Match learning goals to assessments
What we assess is what our students study, engage with, and explore in more depth.  By beginning with what we want students to know and be able to do, we can design and choose assessments to demonstrate the appropriate knowledge and skills we are aiming for them to learn.  After choosing student learning outcomes, make a grid that places learning outcomes across one axis, and the assessment that demonstrates their achievement of those outcomes on the other axis.  In this way new faculty members can double check to be certain that each of the student learning outcomes have been assessed.  If we make clear to students how each assessment furthers the goals of the course, they are able to make informed choices about how to spend their limited study time to achieve the course goals.

Direct and indirect assessment
Assessment strategies are typically classified as direct, where actual student behavior is measured or assessed, or indirect, including things like surveys, focus groups, and similar activities that gather impressions or opinions about a program or its learning goals.  If student assessment is embedded in a course,  meaning it impacts a course grade, it is typically taken more seriously.

Collect data on student performance
In spite of our best efforts at choosing the appropriate forms of assessment, and the intervals that best support student learning, there will be some topics, or units of instruction where students come up short.  If we collect data on these issues, which test questions are commonly missed, which paper topics are commonly derailed, what misconceptions some students are taking away, we can identify weaknesses in instruction and assessment choices and make adjustments as needed.

Revise assessment choices
After analyzing student achievement systematically, we should begin to see gaps in our teaching or the effectiveness of our assessments to measure student understanding.  This is the time to modify our assessments and the instruction leading up to them to better support student learning.  Accomplished faculty members continually revise the ways they assess student knowledge and skills to close the learning gap.  The more students we can move toward deep understanding of the course topics, the more effective we are as instructors.  The best time to make these revisions is right after an assessment is evaluated and the results analyzed to be certain to make changes when the understanding of weaknesses is fresh in our minds. Throughout this revision process it is important to maintain high expectations about what students should know and be able to do.

Reflection of Faculty Expectations

Assessment Primer
Brissenden, G., American Astronomical Society Education Office, University of Chicago & Slater, T., Physics Department,
Montana State University-Bozeman
The question, “Are you asking too little of your class?,” sets the stage for this site which provides an overview of assessment for faculty.

Creating Assignments

Creating Assignments and Exams
Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University
This site offers tips, resources and examples to support development of assignments and assessments in the form of exams.

Writing Assessment Questions for Online Delivery: Principles and Guidelines
University of Bristol
This site has examples of the most commonly used question styles, indicates their salient features, and offers suggestions for choosing the most appropriate question style. The three broad types include: multiple choice, matching, and text/number entry.

Choosing Assignments

Choosing Appropriate Assessment Tools
Chapter Five, Faculty handbook. Indiana University Southeast
This chapter describes ways to choose assessments, including direct and indirect methods.

Choosing Appropriate Assessments: Here are Five Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before You Pick an Assessment Instrument to Use in Your Class
Johnson, L.V. (2005). Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, American Alliance for Health, Physical Education,
Recreation and Dance
This article addresses the particular issues faculty face in choosing assessments for physical education, recreation and dance faculty.

Reflection for Choosing Appropriate Assessments for Your Course
Centre for Teaching and Learning, University of British Columbia
This series of questions guides faculty through the decision making process as they choose assessments.

Choosing Assessment Tools
Chapter Three, Faculty Handbook (2008). Ball State University
This chapter addresses purpose, audience, and other criteria for choosing appropriate tools.

Choosing Assessment Methods
University of the Frasier Valley, Vancouver, British Columbia
This is a table of many assessment methods with a description of the method, its advantages, and its disadvantages.

Assessment at the University of Malta
Academic Programmes Quality, University of Malta
An outline of the purpose, process, types of assessment are examined, including formative and summative assessments.  How to choose appropriate assessments, and a checklist for teaching staff are included.

Assessment Accommodations

Assessment and Accomodations
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
The need for assessment accommodation for individuals from age 3-23 is addressed on this site.

Aligning Outcomes and Assessments

Aligning Assessment with Learning Outcomes
Patte, J. (2008)
This is a youTube presentation, with examples.

Constructive Alignment, and Why it is Important to the Learning Process
Engineering subject centre, The Higher Education Academy
This concept is the underpinning behind the current requirement for declaration of Intended Learning Outcomes and criterion based assessment.

Aligning Teaching for Constructing Learning
Biggs, J. (2007). The Higher Education Academy
This article makes the case that faculty need to create a learning environment in which all components are aligned with one another.

Strategies for Assessing Student Learning Outcomes
From a working paper by Corbitt, Gardiner, and Adams. Assessment of Student Learning, California State University Chico
While this site addresses program assessment, it also addresses the quality of assessment at the course level.  Aligning curriculum with student learning outcomes, and strategies for assessing them are both addressed.

Learning Outcomes Assessment Planning Guide
Academic Programs, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
This detailed site is focused on program assessment, but includes details about aligning course assessments to student learning outcomes.

Issues of Assessment and Aligning Goals and Assessment
Carnegie Mellon University
This website addresses course level assessment and assists faculty in understanding what types of assignments align best with learning outcomes, and describes the characteristics of good assessment practices.

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