A typical method of assessing learning and providing feedback for students is to create tests. While this is effective, if it happens only at midterm and at the end of the semester, it can be too late for a student to make corrections in studying or practice.
We recommend that faculty do frequent, short assessments early in the semester or when a particularly difficult concept or area of study is present in a course. This provides a student with the necessary information to know if they are, indeed learning what needs to be learned or if they need to change what they are doing.
At the same time, you, the professor can determine what students are learning well and what might need additional discussion, case studies or class time devoted to the topic.
When developing a learning assessment it is important to remember that it can have multiple purposes. One purpose is formative (Do I need to do anything to help learning?) or summative (Did students learn the material and the concepts?). Formative assessments are usually improvement focused while summative assessments are usually grade-focused.
Important points for formative assessments:
- Keep them short.
- Make them often enough so errors in facts or concepts can be quickly corrected.
- Practice the higher-level thinking you will expect on the summative assessments.
- Have some of these assessments in-class, group questions that allow students processing (thinking) time.
- Have a mixture of true/false, matching, multiple choice and essay questions.
- If several students miss a concept, cover it again or send out supplemental materials.
- Consider using our course management system (Blackboard) for this level of testing. It will grade all but essay questions for quick feedback for you and students.
- Consider building a pool of questions and using the Blackboard question pool feature. Questions come from a bank of questions (up to several hundred) that correspond to learning units.
- Think of these quizzes as study guides. Students learn what they do and don't know (and so do you) as the semester moves along.
Some important points to remember for summative assessments.
- One good format is to ask several true/false, matching or multiple-choice questions, then an essay question to pull out higher-level concepts or processes.
- Pull true/false, matching and multiple choice questions from the same test pool used for the formative assessments to ensure consistency in question types. Essay questions can change each semester.
Once the feedback is received, guide students through the processes for self-evaluation to determine if they studied both thoroughly and correctly for this content. If they did not, students may need to formulate a plan for how and what to study for the rest of the semester. Keep reading for a large number of helpful resources for developing and using tests. In addition, please check out the following pages for additional feedback resources:
Developing & Using Tests :: Resources
Take 5 for Teaching Video: 10 Guidelines for Writing & Grading Essay Tests
About the above video: Essay questions can give great depth to Tests. Join Ireta Ekstrom as she discusses ten tips for developing and scoring essay exams.
10 Tips for Writing True/False Questions
About the above video: A well-written true/false question can help you and your students discover if they are keeping pace with classroom learning. Join Ireta Ekstrom as she outlines the top ten tips for writing true/false questions.
Techniques for Assessment in Hybrid Courses - Video coming soon!
While many types of assessment are similar for face-to-face and hybrid classes, some modifications can be necessary. Join Matthew Smith, a graduate student in Industrial Organizational Psychology as he discusses some of the differences.
Dr. Jon Mueller, Professor of Psychology wrote this article for the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT). It is a how-to guide for creating authentic evaluation for online learning and includes methods for engaging students in real-work application of their learning.
Russell A. Dewey, PhD from Georgia Southern University has written a set of instructions for creating multiple-choice items that require comprehension from students (as opposed to guessing).
While lengthy, this step-by-step workbook teaches one how to construct well-written essay exams. It includes good/bad examples of questions as well as a bibliography.
This webpage from the Instructional Assessment Resources webpage for assessing students at the University of Texas has a nice compilation of information about true/false exams with strengths, limitations and tips for writing effective questions in this format.
Great resource to share with your students. This site includes good information on test anxiety, but also many other tips for preparing to take tests.