Assignments and assessments allow students to apply and demonstrate learning relevant to a course learning objective. Assessments, assignments or any task you assign can be individual or collaborative, brief or lengthy, or in any genre or format. Ideally assessments have two functions: they at once further student knowledge and skill through completion and they provide information about learning.
In designing assessments, use your learning objectives as a baseline and then review your assessments for variety, opportunities for feedback, and appropriateness to the student population. Consider these questions:
- How well do the tasks relate to the learning objectives?
- Are the tasks assessable? With criteria that students can understand?
- Are the tasks realistic, tied to the real world?
- Are the tasks varied in their nature, drawing on different learning styles and strengths that students may have?
- Are the tasks well scaffolded – with steps, space for practice, and opportunities for feedback that will support success?
It’s easy to get in the habit of reusing the same assignment again and again. Instead innovate and try new strategies.
Authentic assessment evaluates learning in real-world contexts. Often called applied learning, assessments that are authentic aim to be meaningful, practical, and connect course content with real-world problems or tasks.
Grant Wiggins, who first coined the term in 1989 (A True Test), states that an authentic assessment:
- replicates or simulates the contexts in which adults are “tested” in the workplace or in civic or personal life.
- requires judgment and innovation.
- assesses students’ abilities to efficiently and effectively use a repertoire of knowledge and skills to
- negotiate a complex task.
- allows appropriate opportunities to rehearse, practice, consult resources, and get feedback on and refine performances and products. (Indiana University)
Formative assessments help both you and your students measure their development and should be offered frequently. Formative assessments are typically ungraded or low-stakes opportunities to advance and measure student knowledge and skills.
Summative assessments are used for evaluation and are typically assigned at the end of a unit or course.These are tied to a quantitative evaluation and are graded based on a set of criteria and standards. Summative assessments should be forward-looking, authentic, and well connected to the lessons taught.
typically ungraded or low-stakes opportunities to promote and measure student knowledge and skills
typically comes at the end of a unit/topic or semester, tied to a quantitative evaluation (grade) based on a set of criteria and standards of learning progress. Summative assessments should be forward-looking, authentic, and should the purpose of the learning (applied, real-world, relevant to the student’s path)
One of the best things students can do is reflect on their learning – to see for themselves what it is they know and do not know. Strong learners do this all the time, reflexively, but less experienced learners need guidance in developing their learning muscles.
Here are some reflective assignments you can use right in class or as homework:
Problem-solving Log: Students record their steps or thinking in solving a problem or completing an assessment. You can require regular logs (or drafts) with progress reports and steps taken to complete the task. Have students identify challenges, gaps, knowledge they already had, or new knowledge learned.
Exam wrappers: Add a question to your exam to promote metacognitive thinking about the process of exam preparation. Direct students to report and reflect on how they prepared for an assessment and what they imagine doing differently next time. After the exam, or when you meet again next, conduct a short discussion asking students to share their reflections with classmates to support improvement in exam preparation activities. (Ambrose et al., 2010). For an example you can import and adapt for your course, log into Canvas, click on “Commons” (far left navigation) and search “Quiz and Exam Wrapper Survey.”
Short quizzes that test for understanding: A five-minute quiz once a week, perhaps even a one-question quiz, shows students immediately what their level of understanding is. Typically with low point value, short quizzes should be followed by brief discussion of questions missed and investigation of what led to these gaps.
Muddiest point: This technique consists of asking students to jot down a quick response to one question: “What was the muddiest point in [the lecture, discussion, homework assignment, film, etc.]?” The term “muddiest” means “most unclear” or “most confusing” (Angelo et al., 1993), and identifying it essentially helps students discover and zero in on the questions they need to address to conquer a lesson.
Minute papers: These provide an assessment of what students learned in a class, and help students inscribe learning into long-term memory. Minute papers are easy to do. Ask students to write for two minutes about the following questions: “What was the most important thing you learned during this class?” and “What important question remains unanswered?” Collect these papers as students leave for your own learning, returning them to students the next class session. Notes or evaluation or not necessary, though it may be useful to make general comments about what you observed about students’ understanding.
Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. Jossey-Bass
Angelo, T.A. & Cross, K.P. (1993) Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, 2nd Ed. Wiley Indiana University. (n.d.). Authentic assessment. Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://citl.indiana.edu/teaching-resources/assessing-student-learning/authentic-assessment/index.html
Kluger, A. & DeNisi, A. (1996). The effects of feedback interventions on performance: A historical review, a meta-analysis, and a preliminary feedback intervention theory. Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 119, No 2: 254-284.
Mueller, J. (n.d.). Authentic Assessment Toolbox. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/index.htm
Wiggins, Grant. (1998). Ensuring authentic performance. Chapter 2 in Educative Assessment: Designing Assessments to Inform and Improve Student Performance. Jossey-Bass, pp. 21 – 42 Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (2nd ed.). Pearson.
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