We are what we know. But do you know what students know?

Quote from particpant in Diane Pike assessment workshop
Comments about classroom assessment from workshop participants.

The October 18 workshop We Are What We Know: Scholarly Teaching and Classroom Assessment
led by Dr. Diane Pike Pike focused on the conceptual underpinnings of classroom assessment, the characteristics of assessment, and the seven underlying assumptions of assessment.

Diane Pike AugsburgUsing the "One Sentence Summary" technique Diane distilled these into an approach to classroom assessment as‎   “…learner-centered and teacher directed and mutually beneficial; it is formative, context specific, ongoing, and rooted in good teaching practice.”

Assessable Goals
Identifying assessable goals, a critical step in the classroom assessment process, is often surprisingly challenging and especially confusing when trying to distinguish between objectives, goals, and outcomes. Workshop participants engaged in a lively discussion with Diane around these concepts and recognized that not every learning goal is an outcome (outcomes are a subset of goals).;

Workshop discussion about learning goals and outcomes:

“… not all learning goals have to be measurable outcomes and that’s okay but: (1) if it is measurable, try to do it somehow and use findings, (2) multiple imperfect measures okay to use to check if indicate same direction.” 

“Not every learning goal can be translated into an outcome. Learning objectives are more important for faculty than for students; don’t clog your syllabi with them.” 

“I appreciated that we began discussing the complexities of assessment--e.g., that some of the most important learning goals can't be immediately (or perhaps ever) quantified.”

To turn theory into practice and provide faculty with practical classroom assessment techniques (CATs) to implement immediately following the workshop, Diane demonstrated a variety of techniques for assessing course-related skills and knowledge during the workshop.

  • CAT 1: Background Knowledge Probe - A short set of questions to use at the beginning of the course, unit, lesson, or prior to introducing a new topic. Provides information on what students already know and how they communicate what they know; baseline data for the instructor.
  • CAT 4: Empty Outline - Promotes better note taking; helps students organize or reorganize their memory material; feedback can provide important models.
  • CAT 6: Minute Paper - Is most useful in lecture or lecture/discussion and in large classes to assess most important thing students learned. Also helps to identify aspects of lecture that are still unanswered. 
  • CAT 13: One Sentence Summary - Who does what to whom, when, where, who, and why synthesized into a single informative sentence. Helps instructors better understand characteristics of how students summarize a large amount of material.
  • CAT 16: Concept Map - Provides information on mental models used by students to organize information and prompts students to see how their own thoughts are organized and allow for self-assessment. Can be an effective prewriting tool.
“I found the concept map to be challenging but very helpful for uncovering ideas and assumptions that I hadn’t articulated and might not have realized without doing this activity.” –Workshop Participant

Close the Loop
As many workshop participants commented in their “Minute Paper” at the conclusion of the workshop, an equally important aspect of classroom assessment is making use of the information gathered as part of formative classroom assessment to provide meaningful, timely feedback back to students.

Angelo and Cross point out in their book it’s important to “close the loop” and talk to students about the feedback they provided through formative assessment and how students can use the information to improve learning. By helping students see that they feedback they have provided is informing teaching as well as their own learning students are much more likely to participant in assessment activities.

Closing the loop on assessment:

Data is important to collect but we must know how to use it. Teaching must be systematic if it is to be effective, and assessment can get us there.

Assessment can include simple exercises.

Feedback is critical – immediate as possible.

Students must have timely, meaningful feedback on what they know. It’s easy to forget in the crush of grading.

We hope to have Diane back in January 2013 to lead another classroom assessment workshop. Watch your email for details and registration information.

Classroom Assessment Resources

The key text about classroom assessment is Angelo, T.A. and K.P. Cross. 1993 Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. This text has detailed descriptions of 50 different CATs including instructions on how to implement them and examples of use in various courses. The text categorizes CATs by the type of goal the CAT helps you assess. Additionally this text contains a self-scorable Teaching Goals Inventory. Available from the Center for Faculty Development Library.


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