Faculty Focus

HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS

Educational Assessment

Students as Formative Assessment Partners

“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.

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Critical Friends: A Novel Approach to Improving Peer and Instructor Feedback

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.

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A Faster, More Efficient Way to Grade Papers

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.

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Making Exams More about Learning

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.

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An Assessment Technique Using Research Articles

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?

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To Make Assessment Manageable Keep it Simple and Be Flexible

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.

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The Four Questions Every Assessment Report Should Answer

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.

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Getting a Balanced Picture of Student Learning

From local and external standards to norm-referenced and value-added benchmarks, to name just a few, there is no shortage of educational assessment options to use. The question everyone wants answered, however, is ‘Which one is the best?’

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Creating a Campus Culture That Values Assessment

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that resistance to educational assessment comes from almost as many different sources as there are assessment tools, but in the end the reasons usually all boil down to three main issues:

  1. Lack of understanding of the value and importance of assessment
  2. Lack of resources to engage in assessment
  3. Fear of change and risk taking
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Assessing Student Learning

Curriculum, instruction, and assessment: the three fundamental components of education, whether online or face to face. Author Milton Chen calls these the “three legs of the classroom stool” and reminds us that each leg must be equally strong in order for the “stool” to function properly, balanced and supportive. Habitually, the questions What am I going to teach and How am I going to teach it? weigh heavier on an instructor’s mind than How will I assess? As a result, the assessment “leg” of the classroom stool is often the weakest of the three, the least understood and least effectively implemented.

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