Assessing Student Learning

What do we assess in the first place?

In Course Design, we can never underestimate the relationship between learning objectives and assessment. These two ‘partners in crime’ work together to determine the entire make up of a course. The first step is to create course learning objectives. Based on these learning objectives, what would be the most appropriate assessments to measure students’ attainment of the learning objectives. Once these two components are in place, we flesh out a learning plan – which is to say, we develop lesson plans and create the learning opportunities that will best support our students in reaching the learning objectives. Critical reflection on the learning objectives should lead instructors to an awareness about appropriate, relevant assessments. Read more from the University of Reading on why assessment is important.

Consider, for example, a practicum course in a program designed to prepare teachers of English language learners. If the learning objectives orient student learning toward skills they will need to be successful teachers in the English as a Second Language classroom, how appropriate are multiple choice exams as an assessment tool? On the other hand, in an Abstract Algebra course where students are charged with solving problems through the application of various formulas, how appropriate is a written 5-page reflection paper? Now, this is not to say that mathematicians shouldn’t be writing in their classes or that teachers shouldn’t be tested on content knowledge, but the bottom line is – determine your course learning objectives and align your assessment so that they map to one another favorably and in support of student success! Continue reading