What is Assessment?

Assessment is the practice of evaluating and providing feedback to students on how they demonstrated the learning goals of the assignment. When you pick an assignment to design or adapt, be mindful of how you will grade it. Think about how you will evaluate their work (what makes an A- or a C+). 

A rubric is one way of systematizing the evaluation so that you can keep track of what you are grading (ie. your learning goals) and how students are scoring according to an objective measure. There are highly detailed rubrics and ones that are minimalist, and what you decide to use will reflect your teaching style and philosophy as well as the disciplinary context. Ask your department if they have a rubric they want you to use or have used in the past. You can also ask fellow instructors and search the web for rubric templates. You can adapt the language to any rubric to better fit your course. Use Bloom’s taxonomy to revise language and expectations, and align the rubric with the learning goals. These rubrics can be provided as a handout with the assignment guidelines so that students are clear on what they will be evaluated on and how. They can use the rubric as a guide or checklist to stay on track. This method fosters transparency and consistency.

There are two types of assessment that are relevant to classroom teaching: formative and summative. Formative assessment is one that is given along the process of learning, at various benchmarks in an assignment. It is usually low stakes and offers an opportunity to learn and improve. Summative assessment is an evaluation of the assignment once it has been completed. This is very helpful for students to have clarity on how they did in the assignment and course.

Try to give as much formative feedback as possible so students can learn from it along the way. Provide opportunities, if possible, for students to revise work based on your feedback, or at least respond to the feedback in a low stakes writing assignment. 

When picking an assignment consider how much time you have and how much time it will take to evaluate all the student work. This is especially significant in large class sizes if you plan on returning work with your feedback in a timely manner.  As you plot out the semester due dates stagger deadlines so that you are not overwhelmed with overlapping deadlines

Another consideration is to think about the most meaningful way of providing feedback to your students. During our current times, you will most likely be asking students to submit their work digitally. Will you be using a blackboard or another web platform? Can you annotate their work or will you submit a summary of comments at the end? 

The style and level of detail that instructors approach grading a stack of assignments differs greatly. It can be a laborious activity that gets flattened down to a final grade. There are different strategies to adopt more intentional and meaningful assessments, but this can take time as you develop your assignment design over time. You can consider doing alternative assessments and designing an evaluation of group projects and multi-media work.

Finally consider how you will record your assessments. Choosing a gradebook that makes sense to you is an important way to manage your assessment.

Pedagogy is a craft and labor. Be kind to yourself, intentional in your choices, and responsive to your students.