Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Winter Week 4: Assessment to enhance student engagement

This week we discussed the issues of assessment methods and student engagement.  Most of us in the GTC have not had direct experience formulating assessments for our own classes yet, but hopefully now we have some ideas of how we can best assess learning of students in our future classes.  We first discussed the difference between formative and summative assessments.  Formative assessments check for learning and can be thought of as checks of understanding whereas summative assessment is an assessment of learning.  Most of what we discussed afterwards centered on formative assessments, which might have more room for creativity in the types of activities used to formally or informally check for understanding.  Some additional questions addressed:

Backwards course design – write the assessment (e.g. test questions) before units of learning are written.  For example, the test question you want students to be able to answer by the end of your class should guide how you structure the class leading them to be able to answer the question.

Why do we want student engagement with assessment?

Students have so much content to get through and sadly, most of it will not stick with them after they leave the class. Assessments that engage students are more likely to build “process” learning and to allow students to delve more deeply into topics, take more ownership, etc.

What might some of the challenges be to creating assessments that engage students?

TIME.  Anything you do to enhance your class will lead to more work for you.  For example, changing from a scan-tron test-based class structure to one with a group project and presentations equals more work for you setting up and guiding the project as well as grading it.

Student resistance – Students may resist some of these changes because they are unfamiliar and require more work on their end, or because of miscommunication of goals and objectives between teacher and student

Reduces Content of Class – Assessments that you do that require students to be more in-depth with their learning and to focus more on process-based learning will necessarily mean that you cannot cover as much content.  This might be more an acceptable tradeoff for some courses than for others.  For example, an upper division, specialized class may be better able to switch to engaged assessment than a lower division survey course.

What are some potential assessment techniques that might be effective in increasing student engagement?

Some ideas:
-          Self assessment
-          Peer assessment (takes time to build this skill in students)
-          Drafts
-          Rubrics
-          “Carousel” have students go around the room and write answers to various questions to see which are in need of more explanation from the teacher
-          Independent learning – students are responsible for learning a specific topic on their own
-          Student teaching – possibly deriving from independent learning above, students teach other

Plethora of books on assessment techniques in higher education
Authentic Assessment toolbox: http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/
A short essay on student-centered assessment with examples:
Learner centered assessment cycle consisting of 1) define learning outcomes 2) assess learning outcomes 3) review and discuss results of assessment 4) implement changes based on results:

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