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NESCent Postdoc Professional Development Series on Effective Teaching and Learning Session 7 – Testing, Assessment and Grading October 20 th , 2006 NESCent - Durham, NC

The ONE Thing You Should Take Away From Today’s Session…

Learning objectives

should determine

assessment strategies

, not vice versa!


• General philosophies of assessment and grading; testing styles • “Teaching Goals Inventories” and their use in designing assessment strategies • Techniques for assessing content knowledge (traditional and “alternative”) • Potential pitfalls in grading and assessment strategies • References and resources

Assessment: A Definition

• The collection and analysis of information used to indicate how/how much students are learning. • Examples of assessments: tests, quizzes, assignments, projects, tasks, activities, presentations.

• It is a process , not an event.


• Provides information about instructor(s), as well as students.

• Should be used to provide students with feedback on their progress, strengths, weaknesses, etc. • Should be used to identify necessary changes in instructional methods, styles.

Formative vs. Summative Assessment

• Formative Assessment: Done throughout course (including very beginning). Used to improve quality of student learning. (Exs. Non-graded (or minimally graded) quizzes, “minute papers”, student comments) • Summative Assessment: “End of Class” testing. Comprehensive, provides accountability.

Testing Styles

• Just as students have different “learning styles”, they also have different “testing styles”.

• Be aware of this, respect it, but don’t cater your course or assessment plan to a particular testing style.

• Best approach: Develop a strategy that assesses as many testing styles as possible, within reason.

“Teaching Goals Inventory”

• Identify and characterize learning goals. • Use a TGI tool to accomplish this ( ) • Examples of learning goals: basic knowledge, higher-order thinking, critical thinking, career prep/professional development, etc.

• Develop formative and summative assessements to evaluate learning

Techniques and Methods

• Traditional assessment and testing methods – What are some examples?

– What are some strengths/weaknesses of these?

• “Alternative” testing methods – A case study

What Do I Want From My Students?

• Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of topics covered in the course.

• Synthesize concepts into a “big picture”.

• Explain at a level that is appropriate for target audience.

The Idea…

Explain Immunology by writing a children’s story, along the lines of “The Magic Schoolbus” series.

Magic School Bus: Observations

• Complex scientific concepts are addressed. • Concepts are explained thoroughly, accurately and at a level that is appropriate for the target audience.

• The target audience knows less about the topic than the author.

The Details

• Students are given three topics from which to choose. These topics overlap and each is comprehensive.

• Exam is take-home. It is assigned with 2-3 weeks left in the semester and is due on the day of the scheduled final.

• Any books, notes, handouts may be used.

• Students are required to illustrate their story, but it is heavily emphasized that they will not be graded on artistic ability.


• Scope (40%) • Accuracy (40%) • Creativity (20%)

The Results…

Student Attitudes Regarding This Format

60 50 40 30 20 10 0 56 10 6 Like Format Some Reservations Dislike Format 0 Indifferent

Student Comments

At first I thought “Oh…a children’s book…piece of cake”. But, as I started outlining what I wanted to say, I started to really have to think about the T cell process and how to say it all effectively. It is HARD!

I think it will really help me to retain what I’ve learned in the course. I remember very little from most of my college classes because I couldn’t remember the basics. This should cement the fundamentals for me.

I like the fact that we get to take what we know and make sure we know it by explaining it to others.

It forces you to really understand the concepts while allowing room for creativity (something you rarely get to use in science courses).

I have never had a final in which we had to think like that, which was not just refreshing, but fun as well. I found a lot of gaps in what I have learned over the semester by doing this assignment, which caused me to work pretty hard…once I finished…I felt proud of what I had done.

Student Comments

I think it is a good tool to test my immunological knowledge, but it is too shallow, not testing my understanding of immunology thoroughly enough.

Not too happy with it. I think there may be some bias when it comes to grading over who’s more artistic.

The final exam is idiotic and rewards creativity and writing ability more than actual knowledge of the subject matter. I think this final is an unfair way to test students.

Potential Pitfalls

• • • • • Testing/assessment shapes content or learning objectives Testing students on content not covered Failure to provide CLEAR expectations and justification Failure to develop and adhere to a rubric Failure to give students a chance to “practice” multiple times (with feedback!)

Some Good Resources…

• •

Classroom Assessment Techniques

(1993), Angelo and Cross

Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment

(1998), Walvoord and Anderson