Traditionally, many higher education institutions have leaned toward a “high-stakes” assessment model where testing takes place at a set time and place for all students. Research does tell us that “goal directed practice coupled with targeted feedback is critical for learning.”* Therefore we recommend a more “low-stakes” assessment strategy where students have the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge through a variety of frequent, lower-stakes assessments throughout the course. The following sections will cover a few of the more useful assessment distinctions.
*Ambrose, Susan A., Bridges, Michael W., DiPietro, Michele, Lovett, Marsha C., and Norman, Marie K.. How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2010. Accessed August 11, 2021. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Formative & Summative Assessment
Obtaining student feedback is always a challenge. Depending on the teaching modality, it can be even harder to know how things are going for our students. It is critical to find means to assess students’ progress, thinking, and relationship to the class.
One way to do that is to add ongoing, frequent, and usually lower-stakes assessments to your course, in the hopes of guiding students, but also alerting both you and them if there are issues. Formative assessments can help with that, as long as we understand where they are of the most use.
Why formative …
- To provide ongoing and frequent feedback
- To impact further learning
- To guide instruction
- To be itself an opportunity for learning
Why summative …
- To provide a cumulative assessment
- To offer a standardized approach
- To diagnose progress/readiness for matriculation or next level competency or certification
- To ease grading (sometimes)
Asynchronous & Synchronous Assessment
Whether to save in-class time, leverage non-class periods, or simply offer a variety of assessment experiences, you may find yourself thinking about incorporating alternative assessments in your course, along with what we might think of as traditionally synchronous assessment. Some of the most effective assessments can be completed asynchronously, freeing class time for work that takes advantage of the students’ presence in the room. They also often have the benefit of aligning with and effectively measuring what our students are learning.
This chart may help you think about opening up your course to a blend of asynchronous & synchronous assessments:
Assessments: Blending Synchronous and Asynchronous
|Traditional synchronous assessment||Qualities we|
hope to preserve
Assessments: Evaluating Synchronous and Asynchronous Activities
You may also want to begin by mapping out an overall assessment strategy: think through what you do (or plan to do) and identify gaps, weaknesses, or areas where you may be using the same sort of assessment again and again.
You can use this chart to help you plan for alternate assessment strategies:
|Traditional assessment activity||Potential|
|What I want|
students to know
|How will |
|Evaluate student participation in discussions||
|Write in margins of physical copies||
|Long-term group projects||
|In-class group presentations||