Maximizing the Student's Experience with Assessments

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will discuss three common types of assessments, what they entail and how to administer them in order to maximize the student's learning experience. The lesson will be broad and universal so that these assessment types will be useful for any subject.

Begin with the End in Mind

As the second of Steven Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, instructors developing quality assessments should begin with the end in mind. This is not to say that we necessarily want to 'teach the test', but it helps to know what you hope to achieve with the course and then tailor all instruction and assessments toward that goal.

A student completes an assessment

A student completes an assessment

An assessment is simply a tool for measuring student progress. Assessments will help you guide further instruction and determine any areas that need more work to achieve mastery. An assessment should not be viewed as a punishment and should not be used to instill fear in students. Testing anxiety can be severely debilitating to the learning process for some students and undermine all your hard work. Minimizing the stress level in students you want to assess will provide a more accurate measure of learning and maximize the student's learning experience.

Formative Assessments

Formative Assessments measure how well the student's knowledge is forming and these should not generally be graded. Practice assignments, readings, class discussions and homework fall into this category.

If more grades are needed to improve overall scores, formative assessments are recommended to be used as extra credit, only on an as-needed basis. Since these are meant to check ongoing progress, grading these assignment makes superfluous work for the instructor. Students should be aware that completing formative assessments will essentially ensure that they will have the knowledge needed to pass the test. Grading a formative assessment would be like a theatre critic writing a review of an early rehearsal when the cast members are still working out stage directions.

Summative Assessments

Summative Assessments are meant to measure the sum total of the student's knowledge and are graded for quality and accuracy. Quizzes, tests, midterms and final exams are examples of summative assessments.

Students should not be surprised by anything on a summative assessment, provided they have completed the formative assessments. New knowledge should have been introduced in a formative assessment, but anything on the summative assessment should be familiar. This is not the same as giving a copy of the test to students well beforehand, though it may surprise you to know that this is actually a recommended practice. If a large portion of students do not succeed on the summative assessment, adjust the nature of the formative assessments to ensure they accurately reflect the work that will be scored.

Performance Assessments

Performance Assessments will measure how well the student can apply their knowledge in a practical setting. Examples of performance assessments might include original and creative works, portfolios, essays, displays, research projects or presentations.

Science project

The science fair is a good example of Performance Assessments.

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