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Assessments

Whether online/hybrid or face-to-face, assessment is a vital component of student learning since it encompasses a variety of methods used to collect, synthesize, and interpret information to aid in educational decision-making (Airasian, 2000). Assessments may be evaluative in nature (i. e., course grades), or instructional (adjusting instruction to improve student learning). Effective teaching utilizes meaningful and valid assessments and constructs alignment with learning objectives. An online environment offers several advantages and challenges when implementing assessment.

What follows are guidelines on how to create effective assessments (Gronlund, 1998):

  • Student outcomes are clearly communicated
  • A variety of assessment methods are utilized
  • Assessments are relevant and meaningful
  • An adequate student sample of performances are required
  • Assessment procedures are fair
  • Criteria for judging successful performance are clearly communicated to students in advance
  • Students get meaningful feedback regarding strength of performance and weakness to be improved
  • A comprehensive grading and reporting system (tests, performance) must be utilized
  • Develop your student outcomes relative to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Domains
    (the six levels of cognitive outcomes are: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation)
Summative and Formative Assessments

Summative assessment (“Assessment OF Learning”) is generally carried out at the end of a course or project. In an educational setting, summative assessments are typically used to assign students a course grade, and often a scaled grading system enabling the teacher to differentiate students will be used. Summative assessment falls into two categories:

  • Objective assessment typically utilizes items (multiple-choice, true/false, matching, short answer items) that have only one correct answer.
  • Performance assessment can measure higher levels of cognitive outcomes, such as application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

Formative assessment (“Assessment FOR Learning”) is generally carried out throughout a course or project. Used to aid learning, it helps the student and teacher to find out what the student knows so that the teacher can address any areas of weakness or misconceptions in subsequent lessons. The purpose of formative assessment is to see if students have mastered a given concept and can typically be assigned a pass/fail grade (if used for grading purposes at all). Formative assessment does not always need to be conducted by the instructor; self and peer assessments are also effective in providing feedback for improved learning. Methods of formative assessment in an online/hybrid course may include group discussion, posted reflections and allowing rewrites or redos.

Align Assessments with Learning Objectives

Course assessments should evaluate how well students have mastered the objectives. These objectives should guide the choice and design of the assessments. The alignment between objectives and assessments is critical to ensuring a course is well designed.

Many types of activities can be used to assess student learning. When you select what kind of assessment activities or tools to use, it is helpful to consider the following questions:

  • What kind of activities or tools (essays, presentations, case studies) tell me about their level of competence on the learning objective?
  • How well the assessment of their work help guide students’ practice and improve the quality of their work?
  • How will the assessment outcomes guide my teaching practice?
Use a Variety of Assessments Types

In assessing learning, it is important to create a “mix” of assessments that cover multiple approaches to learning. With online/hybrid courses in particular, traditional tests become a smaller part of the grade as you move towards encouraging student interaction on group projects and other activities.

Different types of assessments include:

Tests, Exams, Quizzes
Pre & Post Testing
Project Reports
Peer Reviews
Role Playing
Research Papers
Reflective Writing
Presentations
Discussion
Surveys, interviews and observations
Group discussion
Case studies
Journals
Reading responses
Communicate Expectations


There should always be clarity when communicating course expectations regardless of the learning environment. However students in online/hybrid courses need concise, explicit information about course requirements and instructor expectations. Therefore, develop specific grading guidelines for assignments and activities ahead of time so students know in advance what is expected from them. For example, articulate what are appropriate responses to questions in online discussions, what is a substantive answer versus a superficial response, etc. Providing students with specific examples of the kinds of work you are looking for is helpful.
Participation and Collaboration

Participation
Give students credit for the substantive learning they can provide each other through discussions. This is important in all learning environments. For instance, in many online courses, these discussions are essential for achieving learning goals. By assigning credit for participation in discussions specifically, instructors can prevent “lurking”, where students listen to the conversation but do not participate.

Here are some tips for assessing online discussions.

  • Require students to participate in specific numbers of threaded discussions.
  • Have interactive learning activities (e.g. threaded discussion) account for a high percentage of course grade.
  • Identify the qualities you look for in discussions and grade students according to those criteria

Teamwork involves collaboration among students.
However, students frequently express concern that not all members contribute equally when working in groups. Typically, an instructor will assess teamwork based on the final project instead of evaluating contribution from each student. Thus, by developing a transparent assessment process that assesses both individual and team based learning, student collaboration can be encouraged.
A couple of strategies to effectively assess teamwork in all learning modes are using student self evaluation and peer evaluation. Using the combination of product assessments and individual assessment can provide instructors with valuable information on how teams function and how to provide feedback and grading.
Grading Rubrics

Scoring rubrics not only provide grading guidelines, but also explain what students are supposed to do in order to complete assignments. Researchers recommend using grading scales and rubrics that are assignment-specific and designed with criteria that are highly explicit. They can help students understand what is expected of them in the assignments, and provide more structure and reliability to the assessment process.

An effective rubric:

  • Lists characteristics that describe the performance
  • Applies a fixed scale that rates the quality of product
  • Communicates to students the expectations of quality performance
  • Helps teachers to be more accurate, unbiased, and consistent with grading
  • Can be used by students, peers, and instructors

In addition to grading criteria of assessment, a rubric can be used as a guideline for how students should approach assignments and projects. RubriStar is a great online tool to create grading rubrics.

ePortfolios

What is an e-Portfolio?

e-Portfolios are systematic collections of evidence that demonstrates what a person or an organization has learned over time. These collections often include both work sample and reflections on learning.

student at laptop


The 2010 National Educational Technology Plan suggests that a student-managed electronic learning portfolio can be part of a persistent learning record and help students develop the self-awareness required to set their own learning goals, express their own views of their strengths, weaknesses, and achievements, and take responsibility for them. Educators can use e-Portfolios to gauge students’ development, and they also can be shared with peers, and/or others who are part of the students’ extended network.

Research and experience shows that portfolios serve equally well to foster professional development and to showcase a learner’s developing attitudes, skills, behaviors, and values. Like artists, teachers select the evidence to include in the teaching portfolio by reflecting on their growth as teachers over time. Teachers can see strengths as well as limitations or gaps that need work in the coming year.

e-Portfolios constitute an integrated system of learner-centered evaluation that is well suited for formative and summative assessment. The e-portfolio provides a sense of progress and process as well as the final product.

Effective-Practice


  • e-Portfolios cannot be used in isolation; they are most effective when used in conjunction with other services. i.e., internship, career interview, and course reflections.
  • Train faculty how to create and teach e-Portfolios well in advance of initial attempts to implement programmatic assessment.
  • Give faculty a clear rationale and explanation of how e-Portfolios enhance digital learning and assessment so faculty can explain the same to students.
  • Provide guidelines for maintaining student confidentiality and use of e-Portfolio as an assessment.
  • Provide opportunities for students to give each other feedback on e-Portfolio artifacts, including reflective artifacts.
  • Acquaint faculty with exemplary e-Portfolio formats and forms that show how students can effectively link reflective artifacts with their selected written work.

Research


For more guidance on strengthening your assessments in face to face, online or hybrid environments, we encourage you to consult with our instructional designers.Visit the Instructional Design Consultation page to set up a meeting.