By Cassie Morton
with Mark Ferrer
assessment is an activity, assigned by the professor, that yields comprehensive
information for analyzing, discussing, and judging a learner’s performance
of valued abilities and skills."
Huba and Freed
is the outcome you want for your students in your course, and how
do you measure it?
assessment should improve performance, not just monitor it. It should
be a tool to provide feedback for students as to how well they are
achieving your goals for them. Your assessments should be consistent
with your course goals, and your tests and exams are only a small
facet of assessment. Your course goals and your learning objectives
should be written using assessable terms. Written work, group work,
in-class participation and other demonstrations of competency in
your course should also be included in your assessment strategies.
facet of assessment is your own self-assessment for how well you
are doing as a teacher. Beginning with classroom research and continuing
with a document called a teaching dossier or portfolio, this is
a collection of reflections, samples of student work, improvements
on the syllabus, comparisons with other courses, and many other
products of your teaching.
a Feedback Tool
Consistent with Course Goals
and Freed, Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses:
Shifting the Focus from Teaching to Learning (Allyn &
Bacon, 2000, p. 10)
Define the objectives
of the course in terms of what students will be able to do,
and then create the measurements (examination questions,
projects, portfolios, presentations, journals, etc.) that will clearly
identify whether students can use or apply the knowledge
they have gained.
Find out what works
for your students, what motivates, interests, and pushes them
forward. Isolate those elements that break their momentum, confuse,
lower the stakes, and invite them to lose
focus. Assessment is central to finding out what can be done to
increase and strengthen the learning opportunities you create in
structuring your course.
A collection of some
of the greatest minds regarding the scholarship of teaching has
gathered for several years to explore best practices and current
thinking about assessment. Their work has been published under the
auspices of the American Association of Higher Education at the
Assessment Forum, and they have developed the following principles
for assessing student learning:
AAHE’s 9 Principles
of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning
- The assessment
of student learning begins with educational values.
- Assessment is
most effective when it reflects an understanding of learning
as multidimensional, integrated, and revealed in performance over
- Assessment works
best when the programs it seeks to improve have clear, explicitly
- Assessment requires
attention to outcomes but also and equally to the experiences
that lead to those outcomes.
- Assessment works
best when it is ongoing not episodic.
- Assessment fosters
wider improvement when representatives from across the educational
community are involved.
- Assessment makes
a difference when it begins with issues of use and illuminates
questions that people really care about.
- Assessment is
most likely to lead to improvement when it is part of a larger
set of conditions that promote change.
- Through assessment,
educators meet responsibilities to students and to the public.
For more detail
Wilbert McKeachie, author
of Teaching Tips, and one of the most popular authors
on teaching in higher education, offers several assertions on assessment.
- What students
learn depends as much on your tests as your teaching.
- Don’t think of tests
simply as a means for assigning grades. Tests should facilitate
learning for you as well as for your student.
- Use some nongraded
tests and assessments that provide feedback to your students
- Check your assessment
methods against your goals. Are you really assessing what
you hoped to achieve, for example, higher-order thinking?
- Some goals (values,
motivation, attitudes, some skills) may not be measurable
by conventional tests. Look for other evidence of their
- When the course
is over, students will not be able to depend on you to assess
the quality of their learning. If one of our goals is continued
learning, students need practice in self-assessment.
- To summarize: assessment
is not simply an end-of-course exercise to determine student
grades. Assessments can be learning experiences for students.
Assessment throughout a course communicates your goals
to students so that they can learn more effectively; it will
identify misunderstandings that will help you teach better;
it will help you pace the development of the course;
and, yes, it will also help you do a better job of assigning
grades. ( McKeachie, Teaching Tips, p.85)
diverse talents and learning styles
- enhances the
early years of study
- promotes coherence
experiences, fosters ongoing practice of learned skills,
and integrates education and experience
involves students in learning, and promotes adequate time
- fosters collaboration
on increased student-faculty contact
Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses (2000)
Another AAHE project has
developed Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate
Education. Sometimes referred to as Wingspread, named
after the conference that produced them; these principles have been
expanded into various inventories related to the principles. Principle
four in the faculty inventory is:
Good Practice Gives
- I give quizzes
and homework assignments.
- I prepare classroom
exercises and problems which give students immediate feedback
on how well they do.
- I return examinations
and papers within a week.
- I give students
detailed evaluations of their work early in the term.
- I ask my students
to schedule conferences with me to discuss their progress.
- I give my students
written comments on their strengths and weaknesses on exams
- I give my students
a pre-test at the beginning of each course.
- I ask students
to keep logs or records of their progress.
- I discuss the
results of the final examination with my students at the end
of the semester.
- I call or write
a note to students who miss class.
How do you assess the
effectiveness of your classroom and use that information to improve
in 1993, Classroom Assessment Techniques has had a major impact
on the practice of student assessment. Perhaps the reason for
this is that the work provides specific examples of assessment techniques
in several categories (e.g., course-related knowledge and skill, reaction
to class activities, etc.). The practical aspect of having a compendium
of good assessment techniques, along with descriptions of how to use
them effectively, at faculty’s fingertips endears this resource to time-pressed
teachers looking for efficient ways to improve their assessment practices.
and Cross also offer a set of assumptions about good assessment that
are reflected in The Seven Basic Assumptions of Classroom Assessment:
of learning is directly, but not totally, related to quality of
teaching. To improve your students’ learning, improve your
teaching goals and objectives explicit; then measure the
extent to which students achieve those objectives.
must receive appropriate & focused feedback early and
often and must also learn how to assess their own learning
in order to be most successful.
of assessment most likely to improve teaching and learning is that
conducted by faculty to answer questions they themselves have
formulated in response to issues or problems in their own teaching.”
classroom assessment techniques used by faculty are sources of professional
development, growth, renewal, and challenge for teachers.
assessment does not require specialized training; it can be accomplished
by all teachers.
with peers and with students in classroom assessment efforts to
enhance learning and personal satisfaction.
Use the following check list as
a guide when you design an assessment of your teaching.
Assess the extent to which you have been able to:
Promote high expectations
Answer questions you have formulated in response
to issues or problems in your own teaching.
Respect diverse talents and learning
Use assessment results to improve subsequent
Define the objectives of the course in
terms of what students will be able to do
Create and apply measurements that identify
whether students can do, with the knowledge they
have gained, the things you have specified in your goals
Gather and discuss information from multiple
and diverse sources in order to develop a deep understanding
of what students know, understand, and can do
Make your teaching goals and objectives
Give students appropriate &
focused feedback early and often
Help students learn how to assess their
own learning in order to be most successful
Require students to function at the higher
levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy
Foster ongoing practice of learned skills
Integrate education and experience
Actively involve students in learning
Promote adequate time on task
Provide prompt feedback on an ongoing basis
Increase student-faculty contact
Produce a sustained learning experience
that is multidimensional, integrated, and revealed over
Develop and pursue clear, explicitly stated
Focus on issues of use, and illuminate questions
people really care about