formative assessment - deep learning December 17, 2018

Assessment for Learning: It Just Makes Sense

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Assessment for Learning (AfL), sometimes referred to as “formative assessment” has become part of the educational landscape in the U.S. and is heralded to significantly raise student achievement, yet we are often uncertain what it is and what it looks like in practice in higher education. To clarify, AfL includes the formal and informal processes that faculty and students use during instruction to gather evidence for the purpose of improving learning. The aim of AfL is to improve students’ mastery of the content and to equip and empower them as self-regulated, life-long learners.


female professor looking over glasses December 14, 2018

Contested Grades and the “You Earned It” Retort

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A common rhetorical move we professors make when students object to a grade is to reframe the discussion. We’ll say, “Let’s be clear. I didn’t give you this grade. You earned it.” And if it were appropriate we might underscore our zinger with a smugly snapped Z. But stop and think about it. When we make the “you earned it” move, it’s simply an attempt to shift the debate away from the fairness or interpretation of our standard and onto students to justify their effort by our standard, which really wasn’t their complaint.



reducing student stress June 15, 2018

Tips for Reducing Student Stress

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Students are stressed. A recent survey revealed that mental health issues, including severe stress, are on the rise. In 2016, 65% of students reported experiencing overwhelming anxiety during the previous 12 months, which is an increase of more than 7% from the 2013 data (National College Health Assessment, 2016). We also know from decades of research that arousal levels are strongly related to performance: not enough arousal and you don’t perform well, but too much arousal (which becomes stress/anxiety) and your performance is negatively impacted (Colman, 2001). Therefore, anything we can do as instructors to reduce students’ stress should have a positive impact on their mental health and academic performance.


innovative quiz strategies June 1, 2018

An Innovative Quiz Strategy

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Here’s an interesting way to incorporate collaboration in a quizzing strategy, with some pretty impressive results.

Beginning with the mechanics: students took three quizzes in an introductory pharmaceutical science course. First, they completed the quiz individually. After answering each question, they indicated how confident they were that their answer was correct—5 for absolutely certain and 1 for not knowing and guessing. Then for a period of time (length not specified in the article), they were allowed to collaborate with others seated near them on quiz answers. After that discussion, they could change their quiz answers, if they desired. At that point, they again rated their confidence in the correctness of the answers. Quiz answer sheets and confidence levels were then turned in. Immediately, correct quiz answers were revealed and once again students had the opportunity to discuss answers with each other.


writing more effective test questions March 2, 2018

Making Multiple-Choice Exams Better

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The relatively new Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology journal has a great feature called a “Teacher-Ready Research Review.” The examples I’ve read so far are well organized, clearly written, full of practical implications, and well referenced. This one on multiple-choice tests (mostly the questions on those tests) is no exception. Given our strong reliance on this test type, a regular review of common practices in light of research is warranted.


multiple-choice tests February 21, 2018

Multiple-Choice Tests: Revisiting the Pros and Cons

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Given class sizes, teaching loads, and a host of other academic responsibilities, many teachers feel as though multiple-choice tests are the only viable option. Their widespread use justifies a regular review of those features that make these tests an effective way to assess learning and ongoing consideration of those features that compromise how much learning they promote.


formative assessment activities in class October 30, 2017

Unlocking the Promise of Digital Assessment

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For many professors, student assessment is one of the most labor-intensive components of teaching a class. Items must be prepared, rubrics created, and instructions written. The work continues as the tests are scored, papers read, and comments shared. Performing authentic and meaningful student assessment takes time. Consequently, some professors construct relatively few assessments for their courses.


online learning activities October 27, 2017

Which Assessment Strategies Do Students Prefer?

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While most faculty stick with the tried-and-true quiz and paper assessment strategies for their online courses, the wide range of technologies available today offers a variety of assessment options beyond the traditional forms. But what do students think of these different forms?

Scott Bailey, Stacy Hendricks, and Stephanie Applewhite of Stephen F. Austin State University experimented with different assessment strategies in two online courses in educational leadership, and surveyed students afterward on their impressions of each one. The students were asked to score the strategies using three criteria: 1) enjoyment, 2) engagement with the material, and 3) transferability of knowledge gained to practice. The resulting votes allowed investigators to rank the various strategies from least to most preferred by students.


Hands of business people working with documents July 24, 2017

Four Reasons Assessment Doesn’t Work and What We Can Do About It

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I admit that I’m an assessment geek, nerd, or whatever name you’d like to use. I pore over evaluations, rubrics, and test scores to see what kinds of actionable insights I can glean from them. I’ve just always assumed that it’s part of my job as a teacher to do my very best to make sure students are learning what we need them to learn.