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Flipping Assessment: Making Assessment a Learning Experience

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re already aware that flipped instruction has become the latest trend in higher education classrooms. And for good reason. As it was first articulated by Bergmann and Sams, flipped instruction personalizes education by “redirecting attention away from the teacher and putting attention on the learner and learning.” As it has evolved, the idea of flipped instruction has moved beyond alternative information delivery to strategies for engaging students in higher-level learning outcomes. Instead of one-way communication, instructors use collaborative learning strategies and push passive students to become problem solvers by synthesizing information instead of merely receiving it. More recently on this blog, Honeycutt and Garrett referred to the FLIP as “Focusing on your Learners by Involving them in the Process” of learning during class, and Honeycutt has even developed assessments appropriate for flipped instruction. What’s been left out of the conversation about flipped classrooms, however, is why and how we might also need to flip assessment practices themselves.

The bottom line in flipped instruction is actively engaging students in higher-level learning during class. Although many instructors see assessment as a separate part of the learning cycle—a part that doesn’t typically involve students—there are ways to shift the focus of assessment from the instructor to the student as well as involve students in the process, thereby flipping assessment by making it a learning strategy. Here are a few suggestions for flipping assessments:

When I have used flipped assessments in my writing courses, students have responded positively. After participating in grading conferences, students reported that this grading experience was more personal, important, and valued, and that they felt more confident in revising their work. Students also felt that the grading standards were clear and fair as a result of co-creating and discussing the course rubric.

Students engaged in these flipped assessment strategies are reflective learners who generate evidence for their own assessments. They can take charge of how and why they learn, a major tenet of flipped instruction itself, or at least have a voice in that process. In this way, the energy of assessing their work shifts away from the instructor and toward the students, enhancing their learning in the process. Flipped assessment features a collaborative process where information flows between students and instructors instead of only one way. Finally, students are involved in the full process of learning, including the integral element of assessment, by their synthesis of standards and analysis of their own work. This is a powerful moment where pedagogy and personal/professional practices come together. When we flip our classrooms to be more focused on student learning and student goals, and when we consequently flip our assessment practices to foster agency in our students and help them develop the skills they need for providing evidence of their learning, then we’re mentoring them; we’re walking them through the processes that we, as teachers, need to enact daily.

Bergmann, Jonathan, and Aaron Sams. Flip Your Classroom Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day. Eugene, Or.: International Society for Technology in Education, 2012.

Barbi, Honeycutt, and Jennifer Garrett. “Expanding the Definition of a Flipped Learning Environment.” Faculty Focus. January 31, 2014. Accessed April 8, 2015. https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/instructional-design/expanding-definition-flipped-learning-environment/

Susan Spangler is an associate professor of English at the State University of New York at Fredonia.