If you are a teacher, you probably have experienced the following. You have taught a course, felt good about it, and then had students not do so well on the exam.
A good teacher (which I think we all strive to be), asks themselves how that happened. You probably also recognize that it is now too late to go back and change anything.
Simply saying that you taught it and they didn’t bother to learn it is a cop out.
So, how do we assess our students learning, and involve them in it, prior to an evaluation?
I’m going to talk about a few very helpful, easy to implement strategies to do this, and why this is vital for you as an educator.
An effective classroom assessment technique should:
- assist in your students’ learning
- aid you in determining the needs of your students
- give you important feedback
- help you to meet the course goals you have laid out
- involve the student in assessing their own learning
These assessment techniques are not for marks, so my suggestion is to keep them simple in the beginning. Ease your students into participating by maintaining this simplicity and reinforce to them that this is to help you help them (and help themselves).
This type of activity should not be used as a replacement for your formal, summative evaluations. Remember, it is too late once the exam has already happened. Keep your activity formative; for learning, not of learning.
In Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers (Angelo & Cross) three easy steps to get you started are noted as:
In the world of education planning is key to so much of what we do, so makes sense that this would be the first step in our journey. Choose the class and day that you are going to try your first activity. Plan out enough time to do the activity, and how you will explain it to your group. Creating a hand out or writing the instructions up on the board will be helpful and keep everyone on track.
I have two all-time favorite techniques that I encourage newbies to this to use. The Minute Paper and The Muddiest Point. Easy to administer, and not a huge time consumer for the teacher, both pack an insightful punch. The premise is the same for each, just the questions differ. In The Minute Paper you would ask two basic questions: What was the most important thing you learned today? and What questions remain in your mind as we conclude today’s lesson? In The Muddiest Point you would ask one question: What is the muddiest point in my lecture/demonstration today?
Once you have a plan created it is then time to implement. It is suggested again and again in the adult education world that you do this type of assessment anonymously. It often elicits a more honest answer from the student, eliminating concerns that they may be judged in some way for not understanding something.
Again, explain to them that you are doing this not only to assess where they are at, but so you can tailor your lessons to their needs, giving them a voice in course content and delivery. It will help them to also better understand where they are at themselves.
Give the group the assessment parameters (hand out, written instructions, etc.) and allow time for them to complete it. Once completed and handed in, take the time to read through the responses and start analyzing the information collected. By using a simple technique to start, you will find it easier to assess the data you are being given. I like to make myself brief notes as I read through the responses. Once I have gone through all of them I can use those notes to help me prepare for the next step, the response.
Now that you have the information that you were looking for you need to use it in a way that involves the student. Share it with them. Let them know that today’s lesson is going to focus on topic A and review topic B because yesterday’s assessment technique showed that was where a gap exists. By doing so, the student will see the value in participating because the information they shared is being put to good use.
I highly recommend getting a copy of the book I mentioned earlier, Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers by Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross. I referenced it many times in this post because I have found it to be very helpful. It is full of assessment technique ideas, both simple and more complex.
I wish you success in implementing any and all techniques in your classroom. Just remember, even if the technique you chose doesn’t go as well as planned, you still learned something from the experience. Every class has a different dynamic, and as you become more adept at using assessment techniques you will find you are better able to understand what activity works for what group.
Do you have an assessment technique that you like to use? Share your story with us in the comments section.
Until next time,
Angelo, T. A., Cross K. P. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993.