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8. How do I assess and evaluate my students’ progress?


Formative Assessment

Classroom Assessment Techniques

Summative Assessment/Evaluation

Test Construction

Tests Types: Limited Response and Open Response Tests

Limited Response Tests

Automated Test Scoring

Testing Your Limited Response Test

Open Response Tests

Preparing Students for Open Response Tests

Grading Open Response Tests

Your role in determining grades

Handling student complaints

Keeping Good Records and Keeping Students Informed

Grading on a curve

 

 

Formative Assessment
Sometimes you will want to assess students’ understanding in order to plan instruction based on students’ prior knowledge or to diagnose an area of difficulty for students. If this is your goal, you will want to conduct formative assessment, which are usually shorter, more informal, and ungraded. (Return to top)

Classroom Assessment Techniques
Thomas A. Angelo and Patricia K. Cross have developed a series of techniques for assessment that can be used in class. Many of these require minimal preparation and only a short amount of class time, but they can provide a wealth of information about what your students are and aren’t getting out of your class. Below is a sampling, taken from Angelo and Cross, Classroom Assessment Techniques, 2 nd ed.

Summative Assessment/Evaluation
When you want to assign grades for students’ performances on particular tasks, then you are ready to conduct a summative assessment, or evaluation. Tests and exams are among the most common types of summative assessments, and while they may appear rather simple, they actually require quite a bit of time to construct. Thoughtful test design is important to ensure that you are getting a fair and accurate picture of students’ understanding, so don’t wait until the day before you are administering a test to write questions. (Return to top)

Test Construction

A test is a way to assess students’ understanding from prior experiences, class work, readings, homework and other assignments. It is a sampling process, and for that reason the first step in test construction is planning. To construct a summative assessment, review the course’s educational goals and decide what kind of test will best assess these goals. That is, briefly outline the major topics that were covered and note how much time/effort was devoted to each topic. What level of understanding do you expect from your students? That is, are students expected to

These initial questions can help determine how many questions to ask for each topic, and what types of questions to ask. (Return to top)

Test Types: Limited Response and Open Response Tests
Limited response tests are made up of multiple choice, fill in the blank, matching and true/false items. Open response tests are made up of short answer and essay items. A comparison of advantages and drawbacks of each type includes the following:

 

Advantages

Drawbacks

Limited Response

Quick and easy to grade

Time consuming to develop

 

Cover wide range of material

May encourage memorization

 

Often tests knowledge and analysis

Does not test articulation skills

 

Diagnosis using patterns of incorrect responses

Guessing and test taking strategies may inflate scores

 

 

Tests reading skills

Open Response

Less time consuming to develop

Time consuming to grade

 

Allows personalized feedback

Covers limited sample of material

 

Builds understanding of ideas and relationships

Difficult to grade consistently

 

Presents a more realistic task

Tests articulation and writing skills

(Return to top)

Limited Response Tests
Limited response tests require clear and unambiguous language. If an exam is poorly written, syntax and language may reveal the correct answer to students who don’t know the content. Worse yet, a poorly written question may obscure the correct choices to a student who does know the content. The following list provides some advice for writing limited response items:

Automated Test Scoring
ITS provides free, blank ScanTron forms for short-answer tests and processes the completed forms. The Test Scoring Customer Service Center is located in the Lecture Center complex between the Arts and Sciences and Fine Arts buildings. ITLAL can work with you on testing strategies, test item development, and distracter refinement. ITLAL can also provide examples and models of effective short-answer testing to measure higher levels of student thinking. (Return to top)

Testing Your Limited Response Test
Limited response tests may be assessed. Once you have given the exam, you can test your test and revise items to improve its quality. Using the Scantron scoring statistical information, you can determine whether test items were of acceptable difficulty and successfully differentiated between those who had mastered the material and those who performed poorly.

Open Response Tests
Open response tests are effective means of assessing students’ higher cognitive processes. Constructing essay tests requires a precise formulation of questions. Students must understand what you expect from them, yet the topic has to be flexible enough to allow for a range of possible answers. Following are a variety of ways to construct essay questions:

Preparing Students for Open Response Tests
Here are some tips to help your students prepare for tests:

Grading Open Response Tests

Your role in determining grades
If you are the instructor of record, you are responsible for grading—completely responsible. If you are a discussion leader or lab instructor, your role in grading should be made clear by the faculty member in charge of the course. He or she should either inform you of the policy or consult with you in the process of determining the policy. You may be the person assigned to grade quizzes, lab reports, exams, papers, journals, or combinations of these items. You may also be responsible for maintaining records of attendance, class participation and grade-related data.

Hopefully, you will have some opportunities to create evaluations (assignments, quizzes, etc.). In this case, you can think about what you want students to learn, and ways they can demonstrate or apply this learning. Exams, papers, reports, journals, performances, or projects may be used.

Since the various forms of evaluation should contribute to the students’ overall education in your course, you should think about the emotional aspect of receiving grades and comments from faculty. A student who receives a paper liberally decorated with red marks and comments will normally have a negative reaction to the process (unless your comments are all positive). Try to find a marking pen or pencil that is blue, green, pink or purple, as comments are perceived as somewhat less aggressive, given identical content. Positive comments go much further than negative ones in encouraging students to improve, so try to find something in the students’ work for which you can offer praise. Compare the marginal comments “Awkward and unclear!” with “Interesting idea; can you clarify it for me?” Which would you rather read on a paper or exam?(Return to top)

Handling student complaints

If a problem in grading arises first check to see if the error is yours, and correct it if this is the case. Your error may have caused some real distress, and you should try to understand the student’s concern and apologize appropriately. If you have not made a mistake, however, and the student did not answer the question correctly or as completely as possible, you should point this out and be firm about your position. Firmness is not aggressiveness, however. A good policy is to give yourself some time before finalizing a decision on changing a grade; tell the student you will go over the material and let him or her know in a day or two. This waiting period removes the temptation to either agree quickly in order to avoid further discussion, or disagree immediately in order to assert your position. (Return to top)

Keeping Good Records and Keeping Students Informed

In your efforts to be scrupulously fair and consistent, you will need to have good records and be able to access them easily. Part of your grading record will be student exams, papers and similar materials that you have for grading purposes. If you are responsible for final course grades, you should make sure that you are familiar with the University policies regarding course grades and incompletes. Be sure to keep these records either written in a grade book or in an electronic format such as Excel and keep them even after the semester is done just in case the dean or anyone in your department needs to see them. Keeping clear and organized records of grades and attendance can be a great help should a student challenge a grade.

Once grades for the course have been recorded, however, they should not be changed except for administrative reasons, and may not be changed because of additional work done by the student or from reevaluating previously graded work .

Remember that with personal information, such as grades, you must be careful not to violate a student’s privacy. Also note that it is now illegal to use a student’s Social Security Number as their student identification number, and you may not request this information from them. The University at Albany now assigns a Student Identification Number that is used to identify each student. Before posting grades, be sure to check with your department to verify the department policy on this issue. You can use the gradebook feature of Blackboard to provide convenient online access to grades. (Return to top)

Grading on a curve

When students ask this, they usually are indicating that they want you to give them a higher grade than the quantitative score might suggest. What grading on a curve really means is that you divide a distribution of scores into groups of different sizes. In a normal (bell-shaped) curve, the smallest groups occur on either end of the distribution, and are awarded A’s and E’s. The largest group is the middle group, and those persons are assigned D’s, C’s and B’s; some expect the center of the distribution to be equivalent to a grade of C, while others talk of a “B curve” implying that the mean is a B. An alternative to grading on a curve is to assign letter grades to fixed numerical scores: 90% and above is an A, 80-89% a B and so on. (Return to top)

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