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How to Assess Student Learning with Presentations

Instructor: Sharon Linde
Teachers use differing methods to accurately assess student understanding. This lesson explains what presentations in the classroom are, provides strengths and weaknesses of this method, and explains how they can be used to assess student learning.

Assessing Student Learning

You probably remember taking tests, quizzes, and working on projects in school. Were you aware your teachers were using these assessment measures to gauge your understanding, figure out what you needed, and determine what you learned about a topic? In order for teachers to know if their students are making progress and determine if their teaching is effective, they need to give assessments. How does this work?

By using high quality and diverse assessments teachers can pinpoint three important aspects:

  1. Student understanding
  2. Effectiveness of teaching
  3. Future teaching

Educators need to keep an eye on whether their teaching methods are working and what students need next. For these purposes they use formative assessments, methods that are used during the instruction process that guide future teaching. Formative assessments include observations, discussions, or other methods of collecting information about what a student knows.

When teachers give assessments to determine a student's understanding of a concept at the end of teaching they are using summative assessments. These can take many forms, like tests or project work.

Presentations can be used as both a formative or summative assessment. Let's take a closer look at how teachers use presentations.

Defining Presentations

Tyler is a seasoned teacher who knows that using assessments informs his teaching every step of the way. He is creative with assessing students and tries to come up with different methods that will keep his students' interest up and give him the information he's looking for. When designing assessments, Tyler makes sure he is intentional and has a clear purpose in mind.

For example, if he wants to determine what his students understand about the fractions unit he's teaching, he may ask questions during group discussions, or gather samples of student work. He may also have students give a presentation, during which a student or group of students shows their knowledge of a topic in front of the class. He can use presentations for either formative or summative purposes.

Presentations for Formative Learning

Sometimes, Tyler has his students give a presentation during the learning process to determine their understanding. This can look like:

  • Short skits
  • Poster presentations
  • Chart share

Let's say Tyler just began a unit on the Revolutionary War. After an engaging discussion about reasons that led up to the war, he breaks his students into groups and has them show their understanding. He'll ask them to give a short presentation using the information they learned during class. He may ask students to create a short skit, using people and events. They could also create a poster displaying information with illustrations, or create a chart that lists and details facts.

Each group is given time to work on the presentation; then students take turns sharing their knowledge. During the presentations, Tyler expects students to be active listeners. He'll ask them to offer feedback to other students, compliments or suggestions that may help them learn or reflect on their work.

Presentations for Summative Learning

Tyler also uses presentations to determine student mastery of concepts. Let's stick with the Revolutionary War unit. After spending several weeks learning about the war, it is time for students to show what they know. Instead of taking a test, Tyler will allow students to give a presentation. There are several important parts to this process to ensure student success.

  • Create a detailed scoring guide to help students stay organized and focused
  • Allow students class time to work on presentations
  • Support students appropriately during the process
  • Set clear expectations about the role of listeners during presentations

Tyler will first need to create a scoring guide. This document will detail his expectations for the work and allow students to clearly see what is necessary to receive a good grade. He may ask for a minimum amount of time, require specific facts to be used, and even what type of format, like using technology or visual aids, things that help the audience understand with graphics.

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