Using Assessments to Improve Health Education

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, you'll learn the value of newer assessment types compared to conventional assessment used in health education. You'll also explore how they can help improve health education.

Types of Assessments

How do you know if you're getting better at the gym? You probably notice you're lifting more over time. How do you know if you're getting better at something at work? You probably have a yearly review. Logically, why not apply assessments to improve health education as well?

This lesson will go over what types of assessments can be used to improve health education and why they are important to begin with. An assessment is simply the way by which education achievement is measured.

Why Health Education Assessments are Important

Health education assessments are used to gauge whether an instructional program is achieving its desired or expected health education outcomes. If it's not, then either these outcomes need to be revised, the approach to how students reach these desired outcomes needs to be looked into, or the delivery method with respect to instruction has to be changed. Perhaps, it's a combination of all three.

Assessments are important because they are an objective way of figuring out whether students have acquired the knowledge and skills they need for healthy behaviors. Whereas in the past, health education assessments have often focused on written exams that ascertained a student's knowledge of content, nowadays, assessments test a student's skill level as well.

This doesn't have to be limited to physical skill but also skills like critical thinking, deduction, and reasoning.

An Example of Traditional Health Education Assessment

Let's look at a concrete example of how we can improve health education through more contemporary assessment strategies. It used to be that we would test a concept like HIV awareness through a written exam. We'd ask questions like:

  • What is HIV? Answer: a virus
  • What can HIV lead to? Answer: AIDS

And so on. It was done via a written, usually multiple-choice, exam. It was about regurgitating facts and not actually testing a student's true level of comprehension of what is a critical topic.

Developing and Using Skills-Based Health Education Assessment

Now, instead of just testing a student's knowledge about HIV with multiple-choice questions, which simply don't exist in the real-world, we can evaluate their level of comprehension via things like projects and pre-determined categories of comprehension.

For instance, we can have students design a poster that outlines to other students in the school what HIV is, how it hurts the body, when it may lead to AIDS, what can be done to prevent it, and what can be done to treat it. Such a project would then test how well a student gathers and analyzes information. Assessing students' knowledge in this way measures how well they use facts to support their reasoning, how effectively they organize complex information into useful forms for others, and how well they reason about how HIV impacts the body on a small and large scale.

These categories can then be 'graded'. Students with an emerging understanding of this topic or an emerging ability to work through these categories will rely heavily on the teacher's help. They will have had trouble gathering the appropriate resources for the poster, identifying the critical interactions between HIV and the body, giving accurate recommendations on how to avoid HIV, and so on.

On the other side of the 'grading' scale, exceptional students will have been able complete all of this on their own. But beyond just completing the project, they will have shown they can identify and understand complex aspects of the topic itself. They will have understood subtle and nuanced ways by which HIV can affect the body over time if it's treated or if it's not treated, and so on. The students will come up with ways by which HIV could be prevented in novel contexts, not just those found in examples in books or online. This means they will have been thinking accurately outside of the box.

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