They’re a hassle. Depending on whether it means constructing a different exam, arranging a time and location to administer the exam, or grading after the fact, a makeup exam can consume a lot of extra time and effort. Unfortunately, such exams are pretty much a necessity. Most of our institutions require faculty to excuse students for certain events and activities such as serious illnesses, court appearances, military duty, and university-sponsored athletics.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
Requirements from accreditors and the Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA) have made assessment more important than ever. The key to doing it well is adopting sustainable assessment practices, says Linda Suskie, author of Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide.
“In this article, we describe an easily adoptable and adaptable model for a one-credit capstone course that we designed to assess goals at the programmatic and institutional levels.” (p. 523) That’s what the authors claim in the article referenced below, and that’s what they deliver. The capstone course they write about is the culmination of a degree in political science at a public university.
“Creating a climate that maximizes student accomplishment in any discipline focuses on student learning instead of assigning grades. This requires students to be involved as partners in the assessment of learning and to use assessment results to change their own learning tactics.” (p. 136) The authors of this comment continue by pointing out that this assessment involves the use of formative feedback and that feedback has the greatest benefit when it addresses multiple aspects of learning. This kind of assessment should contain feedback on the product (the completed task) and feedback on progress (the extent to which the student is improving over time). The article then describes a number of formative feedback activities that illustrate how students can be involved as partners in the assessment process. Their involvement means that formative feedback can be given more frequently.
We appreciated reading Dr. Weimer’s article “Getting students to act on our feedback” (March 5, 2012). The solution proposed of asking students to identify three ways to improve their assignment based on instructor feedback is a great idea. We would like to offer a further solution that addresses students’ incorporating instructor feedback.
I hope you won’t stop reading once you find out the idea being proposed here involves automating the feedback provided students on papers, projects, and presentations. If you were to look at a graded set of papers and make a list of the comments offered as feedback, how many of those comments have you written more than once? Is the answer many? If so, you should read on.
We give exams to assess mastery of material—are students learning the course content? With so much emphasis on scores and grades, it’s easy to forget that the process of preparing for, taking, and getting feedback about an exam can also be a learning experience. The learning that results from these processes can be tacit, or teachers can design activities associated with exam events that can result in better content learning and heightened student awareness of the learning skills associated with demonstrating knowledge. The good news is that these activities don’t have to be all that creative and innovative, as Thomas Smith discovered.
In entry-level courses it’s often a struggle to get students to see that the content has larger significance and intriguing aspects. In most science textbooks, for example, only well-established facts are presented, and they are supported by equally well-know research studies. Textbooks don’t usually identify areas of inquiry where the questions have yet to be answered or the findings so far are controversial. And yet often, this is the content most likely to interest students. But can you expect beginning students to read original sources, like research studies? Could you expect them to answer test questions about those articles?
Anyone with a 3-year-old knows one of their favorite words is “Why.” As it turns out, asking “why” is a good way to examine your assessment goals and how they align with your institution’s core values.
“My favorite assessment question is ‘Why’ and I ask it over and over again,” said Linda Suskie, president at the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Of all the activities that go into educational assessment, ironically two of most rewarding also are two of the most overlooked: 1). sharing the results with stakeholders and 2). using the results to effect change.
After devoting so much time and energy to creating assessments, far too often what happens is someone takes the data that’s been gathered and compiles a dense, statistics-laden report that is difficult to find, read, or understand. Meanwhile everyone else turns their attention to more pressing matters; happy they finally got rid of that annoying pebble in their shoe.