An instructor’s responsibility to students is to provide structure to the course so that assessments are directly linked to course objectives and instruction; these assessments should support student learning. As you develop assessments, consider the following:
- What should your students know and be able to do when they finish your course?
- Which assessments will best demonstrate these competencies?
- Do the learning objectives use verbs that can be measured? (The word “understand” is not measurable; “describe, compare, and apply” are measurable).
- Have you shared the assessments and course objective alignment with your students – frequently, and in places other than the syllabus?
- Are activities and assessments designed so that students make connections between content and student learning outcomes?
Assessments can be classified into either formative and summative. The classification is determined by the frequency and format of the assessment:
Typically, formative assessments are either ungraded or low stakes and are used to inform instructors and students about student learning. Formative assessments, when used with spaced practice, promote mental retrieval and learning; provide students with feedback; and also allow for corrective actions (on the part of the instructor and the student). Student discussion, active learning, problem solving, and independent processing activities can all act as formative assessments, or Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)when the results of these activities are used to inform students of their level of understand and what steps to take if they have not yet grasped material at a level necessary for the course. Formative assessment can take any of the following formats:
- Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)
- On-the-fly student check-ins
- Student self-assessment
..and are considered formative when they are:
- used to inform instruction or learning
- low-stakes or no-stakes
- varied, so that students are required to process information in different ways
- followed up with next steps for students who might need more practice
Summative assessments are less frequent (mid-term papers, unit tests, or end of course exams) and are higher stakes. Summative assessments should be linked to course/unit objectives, homework, and class lessons. When administering summative assessments:
- Provide your proficiency expectations through assignment descriptions and rubrics.
- Vary the cognitive complexity of your assessments and incorporate a variety of Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)
- Keep the assessments manageable; variety and a reasonable time commitment are key.
- As possible, provide students with choices on how to demonstrate mastery.
- Teach group skills if your students need those to be successful in a group project. Provide structure and guidelines for student group work and assessments.
- If you have TAs, work with them so they are consistent in grading. Rubrics help with consistency, but inter-rater reliability can be increased through discussion and agreement among TAs