Assessing Student Learning

Assessing student learning is a hot topic among instructors who attended the first brown bag on May 26, 2011.  To kick start this conversation, we asked ourselves two questions:

  1. When it comes to assessing student learning, what’s working and why?
  2. What’s not working and why?

Here’s a quick summary of the key points and threads.

Group assessments in a large, 1st year course

Kate is committed to the value of a “culminating” group project as a way to assess student learning in her first year courses.  These projects afford opportunities for students to actively engage, to work together, to help each other, and to feel empowered as first year students. All good things! Students generate products, do a presentation together and do peer evaluations of each other. The group projects are difficult to grade and there are “tensions” between assessing learning, grading, size of class, teaching contexts, resources available to really assess learning. Nicole’s idea of ’boutique teaching’ is great – small classes, highly interactive opportunities with lots of feedback to individual students is hard to scale to large, classes. We often choose group work because it’s “efficient” although this may not be true in all cases. It’s important to ensure that each individual student in a group has an opportunity to demonstrate learning so including an individual as well as collective component to the group assignment is worth considering.

Using Peer Evaluations in Seminars

Using peer evaluation techniques is popular among some instructors but many feel that students are not able to “critically assess” the performance of others. It’s important for students to learn peer evaluation and to be able to “critically evaluate” each others’ work but what does this really look like? How do we teach students to do this? One suggestion is to create a detailed rubric and to ask students to use the rubric for giving feedback to their peers.

Writing a Thesis Statement

Nicole asks her students to prepare a thesis statement by showing them a good example and a weak example. This demonstrates to students what is being expected of them.

Learning to Self-assess

How do we build in opportunities for students to learn “self assessment”?  Malcolm’s question got everyone thinking about the value of self-assessment in student learning and our own learning.

Resources to Explore

You may wish to explore the list of recent publications on student assessment found in the journal “Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education“.  Many of the topics we touched upon today are represented.

Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) Research on Assessment in Higher Education provides an excellent list of resources on performance assessment at the institution level. Topics  cover a broad range and provide a backdrop for the conversation on student assessment.