5 Ways to Improve Student Learning Assessments

Assessing student learning is arguably the most important, and the most difficult, element of delivering a high-quality education. Thanks to new research about how people learn best, as well as new tools and technologies that help foster this learning, the ability of educators to meaningfully assess their students’ learning has advanced dramatically over the past few years.

Here are five ways to instantly improve your student learning assessments.

Match assessments directly to learning objectives and outcomes.

Student learning assessments shouldn’t be an afterthought—they should form the foundation of the curriculum. This doesn’t mean just “teaching to the test”! What it means is that assessments should be directly linked to the student learning objectives and outcomes. The result of doing this is twofold: first, the learning activities will be more aligned with the overall course objectives, and second, the assessments will be more valid measurements of the desired learning.

Ask better test questions.

Good test questions are those that actually assess whether students have learned what you intended. In addition to matching individual test items to learning objectives, you can improve your test questions by using verbs aimed at the different levels of Bloom’s taxonomy and using multiple question types based on the specific type of knowledge you are trying to assess.

Use performance assessments.

A 1995 study entitled Successful School Restructuring found that effective teaching “requires students…to apply academic learning to important realistic problems.” While assessing knowledge through more traditional means, like multiple-choice tests, can be useful, in many cases performance assessments are better ways of measuring learning. According to the Department of Education’s Office of Technology Assessment, performance assessments include:

·         Open-ended or constructed response items in which there are multiple possible answers to a question

·         Performance-based items or events, which require students to perform some sort of action, such as writing a paragraph or drawing a diagram

·         Projects or experiments, which may involve teamwork and often take an extended period of time

·         Portfolios, which are collections of student work

Implement grading rubrics.

Grading rubrics, aka scoring guides, are useful tools for grading subjective test items and performance assessments. Using grading rubrics is beneficial for both students and teachers: they help students better understand what is expected of them, and they help teachers save time and improve their grading consistency.

Many grading rubric templates for common types of assessments are available online, usually for free. You can also develop your own grading rubrics—while this can be time-intensive at the beginning, it will save you countless hours down the road, especially if you reuse your assessments in different courses. The key to developing effective grading rubrics is to start by clearly defining the expectations for the assignment. Then, you can assign numerical values that represent how well students are meeting each expectation.

Use technology to save time and provide immediate feedback.

One of the main weak points of traditional forms of assessment is the long delay between when students take the assessments and when they receive feedback on their work. Think about the last time you gave a test—how long did it take you to grade and return it to your students?

Research has shown that immediate feedback on performance is an important component in successful learning. New technologies, such as online assessment creators, can help you decrease the lag time and provide immediate feedback to students. While you will still have to grade essays and other subjective items by hand, online assessment software can automatically grade objective assessment items and give students immediate feedback on their work. This will both save you grading time and help you provide better instruction for your students.

Student learning assessment is an important part of the education process, so it’s essential to get it right. These five tips will help you instantly improve the way you evaluate student learning in your classroom.