Designing Authentic, Quality Assessments


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Assessment can be difficult, especially when designing new and different types of assignments such as presentations and problem-based projects. This session is designed to help you get a handle on assessment at all levels in order to help you update your courses with more confidence.

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  • Welcome to Designing Authentic, Quality Assessments!
  • In this workshop we will look at various types of assessment in order to ensure that we are measuring how students are learning in the most effective ways possible. There are many ways to assess students – tests, projects, presentations, and observations are just a few ways we might assess how students perform in our classes. However, sometimes it is easy to get off track and create assessments that don’t really measure what we want them to measure. For example, a quiz might be a convenient way to measure factual knowledge, but it may be a less useful method of assessment when it comes to more complex, application-based tasks and skills.
  • When we talk about assessment, what do we really mean? In short, it is a measure of what students are accomplishing in your course. Are they learning? Are they able to perform well enough in order to go on to the next task, module, or course? We also often measure things like one’s experience and ability to use technology, as well as course effectiveness and instructor effectiveness. We all experience a particular type of assessment ever semester with the end-of-course surveys that we send out to students.
  • There are mainly two types of assessment, formative and summative. You may have heard these terms before, but the essentially refer to either assessments that provide an opportunity for correction, versus those that are meant to make decisions about someone’s progress or abilities. In other words, it’s the difference between a chapter quiz versus the final exam. With a chapter quiz in the middle of the semester, students probably receive feedback to let them understand what they need to change about their knowledge or abilities related to the course content, and they’d have the chance to improve for the future. With a final exam, they might still receive feedback, but within your course and those circumstances, that’s it – there is no more chance for them to improve for you.
  • Some instructors struggle with the idea of assigning grades to certain tasks. A good example of this is providing practice tests for students to study with. If you don’t give points for such tests, there is a good chance that many students won’t do them, meaning they might compromise their ability to do well on the actual tests. If you want to give them the maximum opportunity to do well, you might then offer some incentive for working on those practice tests, like extra credit or even make them a requirement. Some students will do everything you put in front of them simply because they want to do well and enjoy learning. Those aren’t the ones, unfortunately, that we’re trying to help all the time! For those others who need a little incentive, external rewards really do work wonders, whether we as instructors like it or not.
  • A great activity to try to is to ask students to reflect on their abilities and tendencies as learners. This often goes over well as an “icebreaker” kind of activity at the beginning of a semester. It can be incredibly eye-opening for them to look at themselves and their study habits and it might even spur them to action to improve their study skills. It is also simply great for classroom conversation, and can help students see themselves in a little more of a mature way.
  • Of course, there are a million models revolving around assessment. You probably know about many of them. One of my personal favorites is Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels, a simple model that is popular in business, but can also apply to many other fields as well, including education. Many newer assessment models are built in some way on Kirkpatrick’s initial work, and there are both proponents and critics of his work, all with their own reasons. Mostly, it’s safe to say there is no one perfect assessment model but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from is out there and use them in our daily practices.
  • Kirkpatrick’s levels are as follows:
    Level 1 relates to how learners felt about the course, and their reactions to it. Our course evaluations at the end of the semester are the most typical way we do Level 1 at the university. Some instructors put together their own level 1-type surveys to give to students also, to try to understand more about students liked and did not like about their course. This is a great idea, especially if you are teaching something for the first time and would like feedback. Unfortunately our course evaluations are a bit generic, and may not cover everything you want to know.
    Level 2 is about learning and the one we spend the most time on in our jobs. We want to know how well students learned our course content, in essence, and whether they can pass our classes.
    Level 3 is more about application – can they use what they learned later on? Are they using what they learned in their next classes, or on the job once they get one in the field? Level 3 is not something we always do well at the university, often because it’s difficult to track students once they leave us.
    Likewise, Level 4 is also hard for the same reason as level 3, but also because our business is to educate. Whereas in business, if a training program is found to be ineffective it might simply not be offered anymore, in education what we do is teach. There is no simply picking another program or getting rid of it, although when push comes to shove, if students aren’t enrolling in our courses, there is no return on investment and so, we don’t offer those courses anymore. That’s a simple view of Level 4, which in universities – and in many businesses too - is sometimes not done in tandem with the other levels. This is how great courses taught by great instructors get canceled due to lack of support or enrollment. There may be other factors at play that could be dealt with, but the bottom line dollars wind up driving those decisions instead of level 1, 2, or 3 data.
  • I highly recommend the use of periodic surveys or evaluations that students can respond to anonymously. Reflections are another way to get students to tell you more about how they’re doing, and how you’re doing. Sometimes these can even be done on the fly, informally in the middle of a class discussion, and you might even do this all the time without realizing it. Many of us get good at gauging the “pulse” of our students over time. If you find that students are fading out, their grades are dropping, their attendance is decreasing, and so forth, it might have to do with many factors, but one of those factors could be something you can control. Finding out can reduce attrition and make for happier students.
  • This Level 2 stuff is quite important to what we do. The key is to spread it out and try to cover your objectives from multiple angles. Teaching a whole semester just to have it all boil down to a midterm and final test is often not enough of a quality measure of learning. Papers, discussions, projects, and so forth can give us more insight into what students really know and are able to do, so it is best to do as much as possible to spread the learning assessments around.
  • While deans and department heads may think more about level 3 and 4 types of assessments, we as “regular” faculty often do not. However, it is helpful to understand where students come from before they get to you, which can be done through collaborating and talking with other faculty members, or even through giving students a “preassessment” at the beginning of the semester designed to see what they already know about a topic. This helps give you a baseline for where their strengths and weaknesses are, so that you can adjust your instruction before just tossing them in the deep end!
  • So, authentic assessment really just has to do with staying true to your objectives. If you want students to simply remember some facts, a quiz might be great. If you want them to demonstrate what they can do in a more authentic way, then we may have to have them discuss, write, present, or perform. An example from nursing might be asking students to actually draw medication from a dispenser at the right dosage and give it to a “pretend” patient. This is authentic – if they do it well, we have happy patients. A less authentic measure of the same skill might be to give them some mathematical problems involving dosages and ask them to solve them. While this math is an essential part of performing the task, they still haven’t really done the task yet, and sometimes doing the math involved is only one part of the medication “puzzle” as it were. In a field like communication, authentic assessment might be judging the effectiveness of giving a speech, while a less authentic measure might be taking a test on the different types of speeches one can give. Many of us already do a lot of authentic assessments in our classes without necessarily even realizing it, because authentic assessment makes a lot of sense!
  • Variety is the spice of life and nowhere is that more true than with assessment. If you’re not seeing the results you want from any given assessment you normally use, try something slightly different. Turn things around on students and ask them to come up with the problems for you. Give them opportunities to present to you what they already know. You will likely be impressed with what you get, and students appreciate these opportunities quite a lot.
  • There are many tools available for assessment at all kinds of levels, including both within BlackBoard and outside of BlackBoard. We can use technology in all kinds of interesting ways to encourage students to be more creative and provide us with many different ways to figure out if they know what we need them to. A few examples include discussing on forums, producing multimedia, presenting with slides and other media, and creating books, blogs, wikis, journals, and videos.
  • Some cool tools that may be useful to you and to your students include BlackBoard’s various tools, Google Docs, Prezi, new templates from Microsoft that add more spice to your presentations or papers, Screencast-o-matic or Jing/Camtasia, Wordpress, or SimpleBooklet. These are all tools that students can use freely to promote their own learning, and they often require minimal knowledge or effort from you. These tools can all be figured out by students pretty easily, so giving them some options and letting them “run with it” is not a bad way to go about things. Try it and see what happens!
  • In order to grade all of this stuff, you’ll probably want a rubric. A rubric is a comprehensive way to grade, because it provides you with objectives and observations to look for in a student’s work and compare to a standard view of what is “good.” This makes the act of grading much less subjective, as can often happen with things like presentations and multimedia. When students know what you’re looking for, they are much more likely to perform where you want them to, and it takes the mystery out of learning. No student likes to be held to standards that they don’t understand. Providing rubrics and good objectives will help with this.
  • Some great example rubrics and information about them can be found here. BlacKboard even has a nice tool for creating rubrics and applying them to assignments, discussions, and other items students can turn in to you.
  • BlackBoard rubrics takes some of the pain out of scoring things on a rubric, because you can just click the little bubbles by each performance a student makes and it totals up their score for you. You can even apply the same rubric to multiple assignments or discussions, so if you score everyone the same way on every discussion, for example, you do not have to create new rubrics every time. Rubrics can also be imported and exported between courses, so they can be shared with your colleagues who might teach the same or similar activities.
  • Here are some more useful resources on assessments and rubrics, including Rubistar which will help fill in the blanks for you in creating rubrics and take even more pain out of the process. Yes, creating rubrics and authentic assessments does take a little more time than the traditional testing route. However, it is well worth it when you consider how much more your students will be able to do as a result of your course in the long run!
  • Please contact us and visit for all workshop notes, links, and training needs. Thank you!
  • Designing Authentic, Quality Assessments

    1. 1. Office of Learning &Technology Purdue University North Central
    2. 2.  We will cover:  Levels of assessment in our courses  Formative vs. summative learning assessment  The meaning behind “authentic assessment”  Using technology to enhance our ability to assess effectively
    3. 3.  Accomplishment of learning objectives  Quality of interaction or project work (measured with rubrics)  Knowledge (measured with tests and exams)  Knowledge application (measured with essay or advanced-level tests)  Experience with technology  Course  Instructor
    4. 4. FORMATIVE  Helps you get a handle on how the course and/or students are doing at any given point  Gives you a chance to correct something if it’s not going as planned SUMMATIVE  Usually done at the end of a unit or course  Provides a final look at how things went  Determines whether students “pass” or have attained the necessary skills to move on
    5. 5.  Unfortunately, human nature is such that we will typically only do what we have to  Only students that are intrinsically motivated will tend to go beyond  Experience and research shows that most students tend toward extrinsic motivation and perform best when:  A grade is involved  Completion of a major course requirement is contingent on participation
    6. 6.  When students have a chance to reflect on themselves as learners, they may be more inclined to grow and achieve more  Try one of these surveys in class or as an assignment/discussion and see the reaction  Felder’s Index of Learning Styles:  Biggs’ Study Process Questionnaire: approaches-to-learning/
    7. 7.  There are many schools of thought on how learning assessment should be done  Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels model is one of the more popular models used in business but can also apply to education
    8. 8.  Level One: Reaction  How did the learners feel about the course?  Typically done in course evaluations but don’t have to end there  LevelTwo: Learning  How well did students learn?  LevelThree:Transfer  How much can they use what they learned in other classes or on the job?  Level Four: Impact  How does your course impact the program, department, university?
    9. 9.  Allows for reflection on the course delivery and what learners take away  Provides student perspective on how course is going  Examples:  Midterm or periodic course evaluations (how am I doing? surveys)  Reflective discussions or quick essays about the course
    10. 10.  Tells us whether students are learning and how much  For most academic courses, this is where we stop assessment - it is fairly important of course!  Examples:  Tests  Presentations  Projects  Discussions  Papers
    11. 11.  We often don’t have a chance to do Level Three and Four evaluation as faculty teaching courses  LevelThree can be valuable to assessing students at a program level – how are they transferring what they learned in specific classes into their program at large?  Level Four can be useful to the department for assessing a program’s strengths and weaknesses overall
    12. 12.  We often refer to real- world application of knowledge and skills as “authentic”  Students have the chance to use what they learn in a practical way  Any assessment can be authentic as long as it measures what you really want it to
    13. 13.  Instead of a multiple-choice test of knowledge, try an essay test, a file response test, a project, or a paper  Instead of a case study, try having students go out into the field to find their own case  Provide a problem without a known solution and ask students to explore possibilities  Ask students to interpret concepts through presentations or multimedia creation
    14. 14.  Students can create and publish projects and presentations using a variety of helpful – and often free – tools  Discussion forums  Multimedia (text + images, video, etc)  Presentation tools  Digital video and audio  E-books, wikis, blogs
    15. 15.  BlackBoard discussion, blog, wiki, Kaltura media tools  Google Docs:  Prezi:  MS OfficeTemplates:  Screencast-o-matic: http://www.screencast-o-  Jing and Camtasia:  Wordpress:  SimpleBooklet: edu.php
    16. 16.  Rubrics are a comprehensive way to grade projects, written work, multimedia, and other non-test assessments  When students know what you’re looking for, they’re much more likely to perform well  Use your lesson objectives to determine what performances you’re looking for, and decide on what describes good performance vs. not so good
    17. 17.  https://www.uwstout.ed u/soe/profdev/ m  ching/designteach/teach /rubrics.html  http://jfmueller.faculty.n les/authentictaskexampl es.htm
    18. 18.  You can grade using rubrics right within BlackBoard!  Creating and using rubrics video tutorials: _ynm8GzogBUOpgD4PLg8Ak8t8Il44g
    19. 19.  Writing good learning objectives: bjectives  A great help with coming up with verbiage for your rubrics:  Kathy Schrock’s guide for educators:  Workshop in scenario-based learning and authentic assessment examples: esite/home
    20. 20. Reach us at:   Twitter and Facebook: @PNCOLT  for all workshop notes, links, and training needs