Modes of assessment

Before beginning a new topic, concept or subject in a course, accomplished faculty members find out what students already know about the topic.  Even though their knowledge may be partial or incorrect, finding out what their understandings are and adjusting teaching strategies to build on or correct misperceptions will enhance student learning.  Strategies for determining what students know can be quick, simple and timely.  Have students answer an open ended question in a one minute quickwrite on a 3”x5” card and collect them.  Have students respond with a show of hands or using technology.  Ask several students to come up to the whiteboard and work a problem in front of the class and have the rest of the students use a thumbs up or down to agree or disagree with the solution.  Ask students to name the principle behind an example flashed on a PowerPoint slide.  These are just a few of many ways to elicit feedback quickly, even in a large course setting.  Once the student perspective is elicited use it to tailor your teaching to the needs of the class.  Dispel misconceptions, further explain areas of weakness, and reduce time for areas where students already understand.  New faculty members who utilize pre-assessment strategies will better meet the learning needs of their students.

Formative assessment
One way to think about formative assessment is as practice, without holding students fully accountable for skills and concepts that have just been introduced.  Students who are involved in formative assessment, serve both as assessors of their own learning and as resources to other students. A key feature of formative assessment is descriptive feedback as students learn.  In this way students become aware of what they are doing well, and where they need to focus more attention.  Formative assessments come in many forms but include homework problems, quizzes, drafts of papers with responses, and even “clicker” feedback used during a lecture to measure student understanding. What instructors do with the knowledge they gain from formative assessment determines whether it is effective for improving student learning.  Accomplished faculty members use what they learn during formative assessment to adjust their teaching, reteach, or redirect student efforts toward achievement.

Summative assessment
Summative assessments are spread out and occur after instruction as a final measure of learning for a particular topic in a course or for the entire course.  These assessments typically occur too far down the learning path to provide feedback for a particular learner, although they do serve an important measure for faculty to determine how effectively they have taught a topic, and whether to revise their teaching in the future when they teach the same course.


Classroom Assessment Technique Examples
Angelo, T. & Cross, K., (1993).Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, 2nd Ed.
This book offers fifty classroom assessment techniques for the college instructor.

Differentiated Assessment Strategies
Tomlinson, C., (2009).Course Syllabus, A Distance Learning Graduate Course
This course was developed in collaboration with K-12 teachers to introduce assessment strategies, including pre-assessment.

Best Practice in Assessment

Classroom Assessment
Center for Instructional Development and Research, University of Washington
A number of good resources are linked to this site.

Best Practices in Assessment
Office of assessment, University of Kentucky
Results of a conference on best practices in assessment, this site outlines 50 classroom assessment techniques, and outlines four types of learning to assess, how, what, when/where, and why.

Formative Assessment

Formative Assessment in Physiology: Teaching Using a Wireless Classroom Communication System
Paschal, C.B. (2002). Teaching with Technology, Advanced Physiology Education, No. 26 p. 299-308, American Physiological Society
Department of Engineering, and Department of Radiological Sciences, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

In this study a traditional lecture/reading course is compared to teaching with an instant student feedback system.

The Use of Formative Assessment in University Level Mathematics Courses
Stull, J. (2008). Plenary meeting session summary, Temple University
This is a summary of the results of a study of implementation of formative assessment in a differential equations course.

Formative Assessment in the Classroom
Faculty Resources Quick Tips, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Park University
This is an overview of the advantages and disadvantages, guidelines for enhancing, resource links and references for formative assessment.

Formative Assessment: What Do Teachers Need to Know and Do?
Heritage, M. (October, 2007), Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 89, No. 2
Asst. Director for professional development at the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing (CRESST), UCLA
While the article addresses K-12 teaching, it is helpful for university faculty as well due to the comprehensive definition of formative assessment it offers.

Summative Assessment

Summative Classroom Assessment
Faculty Resources Quick Tips, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Park University
This site provides an overview of the advantages and disadvantages, guidelines for enhancing, resource links and references for summative assessment.

Summative Assessment with Formative Feedback: An Intervention in a Bioscience Cohort
Parry, D., Larsen, C. & Walsh, C. (April, 2008). Bioscience education, Department of Health and Applied Social Sciences. Liverpool Hope University
The link between student learning and assessment is explored in a pilot study designed in response to a need to open dialogue around student assessment.


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