#9 Assessment for Learning

Students learn better when assessment is used as another opportunity for learning.

Dee Fink[1] articulates four components to providing evaluative feedback that leads to deeper learning; a) forward looking-assessment, b) criteria and standards, c) self-assessment, and d) FIDeLity feedback.

  • Forward-looking assessment[2]
    1. Instead of backward looking assessment
      1. Backward looking assessment is primarily focused on reciting previously covered material
    2. Forward-looking assessment is focused on what the teacher wants students to know or do in the future based on the content covered
      1. Ask yourself “What am I trying to prepare students to do? What it is I am trying to determine that students are ready or not ready to do?” p. 89
    3. Tools for forward-looking assessment
      1. Assess authentic tasks that require judgement and critical thinking
      2. Instead of reciting memorized content ask students to do the work of the discipline
      3. Assess the use of knowledge and skills to perform a task
      4. Follow a performance-feedback-revision-new performance cycle
  • Criteria and standards[3]
    1. Provide a clear rubric to articulate the “yardstick” you will use to assess learning activities in the course
    2. Be sure the criteria and standards are clear to you as the teacher and the students
  • Self-assessment[4]
    1. Provide regular opportunities for students to self-assess their performance
    2. This not only provides opportunity for more feedback but it is an important skill to for students to develop
    3. Activities for self-assessment
      • Identify relevant criteria
        • Give students a list of criteria and standards to assess a task
        • Even better- let students develop a list of important criteria and standard to assess a specific task
      • Practice
        • On other student’s work
          • Allow opportunities for students to practice assessing material based on the identified criteria and standards using peer feedback
          • For example, have students read drafts of other student’s papers to provide feedback
        • On one’s own work
          1. Have students perform learning activity or task and then assess themselves using the developed criteria and standards
  • FIDeLity Feedback[5]
    1. Differences between feedback and assessment
      • Feedback is evaluative like assessment, but it is not a part of the course grade
      • Feedback is a dialogue between the learner and the coach providing the feedback
    2. Quality feedback should follow the FIDeLity rule
      • Frequent-Feedback should be provided at a minimum every week, ideally every class (feedback can be in-depth or quick, and comes from from the teacher or fellow students)
      • Immediate- Feedback is given as close to the learning activity as possible
      • Discriminating
        • Feedback should be clear so students know how to improve
        • It should be directly related to a rubric
      • Loving- When feedback is provided in an empathetic, understanding way students are more likely to internalize the feedback and necessary changes

Use both Formative and Summative Assessment[6]

  1. Formative assessment- ongoing assessment to help teachers and students assess effectiveness in meeting learning goals
    • Provides students will feedback to allow time for improvement and growth
    • Provides teachers with information about teaching effectiveness
    • Use Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)
      • Learner centered and teacher directed
      • Beneficial to students to reinforce learning and beneficial to faculty to assess effectiveness of teaching
      • Formative- anonymous or ungraded
      • Ongoing- a regular practice in the classroom
      • Read Teaching at it’s Best[7] for several “Tried and True CATs”
  2. Summative Assessment- Formal evaluation to assess final performance
    • Should be connected to course learning outcomes and the teaching strategy
    • Tips for designing exam questions
      • Develop test questions in conjunction with or directly following dissemination of the content in class
      • Ensure instructions are clear and detailed
      • Begin the exam with low-stress questions
      • Ask another teacher to evaluate the exam before dissemination
      • Read Teaching at it’s Best[8] for pros and cons on a variety of testing strategies

Using Practice Tests or Quizzes to improve learning

  1. Why use practice tests?[9]
    • Improve long-term retention
    • Improve recall
    • Positive impact on performance on final exams
    • Beneficial in a variety of forms (multiple choice, short answer, essay)
    • Can be formal classroom tests or self-regulated study like flashcard recall
    • Helps teacher identify areas for growth
  2. How to incorporate test practice in the classroom
    • Ask questions frequently- provide opportunities to think and randomly call on students for the answers
    • Quizzes as beginning or end of class
    • Invite student responses through clickers or Poll Everywhere
    • Be sure they are them low-stakes test that don’t have a huge impact on grades
  3. Research report on the value of quizzes
    • Roediger et al. report on a study with sixth grade students investigating the relationship between administration of short quizzes on content throughout a course and performance on final exams. They found when students were quizzed on material they performed better on final exams. [10]

Implementing continuous assessment and feedback in a large introductory course[11]

  1. Introductory courses with a large amount of students typically rely on student’s passive retention of information
  2. Tips for providing students with active engagement and feedback with course content
    • Provide regular quizzes on new content students can take over and over again until they master it
      • Make it easier by using an online quiz for automatic grading and feedback
    • Provide space and guidance for online small group discussion on new material
      • Monitor group discussions for frequency and depth of conversation
    • Find opportunities for outside help for formative feedback- individualized, on-demand support through a web based program, writing center, or peer feedback
    • Use Learning Assistants to provide helpful feedback

Strategies SPU faculty use for assessment and feedback:

  • David Denton in SOE knows the importance of checking for understanding as early and often as possible using formative assessment techniques. There are lots of ways to do this, but it usually means having students speak or write about what they know. An important reason to conduct formative assessment is to make adjustments to instruction in order to help students reach some course objective. David reminds us that if you use any sort of formal rubric, we need to make sure that it is clearly aligned with course standards, objectives, or goals.
  • Derek Wood in Biology has his students “triage” their incorrect test answers with a 5-step process.
    1. Determine the correct answer.
    2. Locate where the information could be found in lecture notes, recordings, readings, etc.
    3. Identify what led you to select or submit the incorrect answer. (Derek notes that this is clearly the most challenging, and important of the five)
    4. Once completed, analyze your responses to identify common themes.
    5. List three ways by which you can alter your study habits prior to the next exam to avoid the pitfalls.
    6. After students work through this exercise he then asks them to check in with him and discuss what they found. They invariably find value in this and the resulting conversations around improvement are much richer and data driven.
  • Ryan Ferrer also uses frequent assessments:
    1. Blackboard quizzes with instant feedback
    2. In-class quizzes
    3. Small group discussions
    4. Pre and post class activities that are discussed in class
    5. Mini-writing assignments that are shared (anonymously) with classmates for feedback
    6. Up to 5 mini-exams over the quarter (depending on the course)
    7. Two mandatory office hour visits (for USEM).

[1] L. Dee Fink. Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003)

[2] Ibid. 85-89.

[3] Ibid. 89-92.

[4] Ibid. 92-95

[5] Ibid. 95-99

[6] Linda B. Nilson. Teaching at its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors. 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010) 271-294.

[7] Teaching at it’s Best, Chapter 28 Assessing Student Learning in Progress 273-280

[8] Teaching at its Best. Chapter 29 Constructing Summative Assessments, 281-294.

[9] Mary A. Pyc, Pooja K. Agarwal, and Henry L. Roediger, III. Test-enhanced Learning. Applying Science of Learning in Education: Infusing Psychological Science into the Curriculum. 78-90.

[10] Henry L. Roediger III, Pooja K. Agarwal, Mark A. McDaniel, and Kathleen B. McDermott. (2011). Test-Enhanced Learning in the Classroom: Long-Term Improvements from QuizzingJournal of Experimental Psychology, 17(4). 382-395.

[11] Carol A. Twigg. Increasing Success for Underserved Students: Redesigning Introductory Courses. The National Center for Academic Transformation