Effective Assessments

Designing effective assessments of student learning is a continuous process taking place before, during, and after your course’s term. The process begins with creating learning outcomes that are assessable: as a result of taking your course, what should students take away? How will students meet these outcomes, and in what ways will you scaffold learning in your curriculum?

Making Assessments Intentional

As part of curriculum building, there are many ways you can evaluate what your students know as they step into the first days of the term to cultivate a successful learning community. Be sure to remind students this assignment will not be graded, but instead provides valuable insights to you as an instructor. Pre-assessments provide a foundation to the course by bridging previous and new knowledge.

Cornell University’s Center for Teaching Innovation poses these questions in forming an effective assessment of background knowledge:

  • What do you assume students already know?
  • What kinds of questions will help you confirm your assumptions?
  • What are some common misconceptions or myths related to your subject?
  • How are you going to analyze and respond to the data your pre-assessment provides?

Providing students with feedback scaffolds their success in the course and provides a deeper, more functional assessment of their work and grasp of concepts. This form of assessment, formative in nature, is an opportunity for learning. However, how you provide feedback varies by course: detailed comments may be appropriate for writing assignments, but may cause greater confusion with a science lab report. Give feedback that evokes a response and is relevant to students’ future work for your class and others.

Eugene Kim, professor in the School of Law, describes in a podcast with the Center for Teaching Excellence his methods of providing feedback electronically to students by screencasting their submissions. Kim shares his “walk” through a paper, allowing a student to hear his thought process and pinpoint exactly where he is commenting.

Assessment Technique: E-Feedback and Canvas SpeedGrader

Part of defining learning objectives is the identification of what levels of knowledge are desired upon the course’s completion and the types of assessments that will be used to measure student’s engagement and learning in the course. For instance, if students are learning about the US criminal justice system, how can this knowledge be acted upon – through describing its history, or by engaging a deeper level of analysis?

When writing learning objectives, be sure to scaffold types of assessments used and that they are appropriate for the task. 

Digital Resource Library: Alternative Assessment Styles

Request Instructional Design Workshops
Our Instructional Designers offer a two-hour workshop on designing Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) – simple, non-graded, anonymous assignments – for gathering immediate student feedback as you teach.

For more information, email the Instructional Design team.