Ways to Assess Student Learning

Perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of the teaching and learning process is assessing student learning. Is a grade an accurate representation of student learning? Have you ever had a student earn a grade that did not match your expectation of their learning? If the answer is yes, you have a good chance your assessment did not match course content and or student performance. The question remains: How do instructors accurately assess student learning.

The following are some assessment definitions and examples.

Summative assessment
Feedback is given at the end of a semester to indicate amount learned. A score on a midterm or final exam is an example of summative assessment.

Formative assessment
Feedback is given to the student through the course, topic, or semester with the intent of improving understanding. Constructive comments on a first draft of a paper or structuring multiple assignments to assess student development are examples of formative feedback. The key with formative assessment is students have time to reflect on the feedback they received.

Formal assessment
Student material that is assessed towards a final grade (paper, exams, clinical work, service learning, etc)

Informal assessment
Student material that is assessed and is not assigned a value towards a final grade

Other forms of assessment

Peer assessment
Working in groups and having classmates give feedback to their peers.

Initial assessment
Initial assessment is given to students early on in a unit or semester to determine their beginning understanding and misconceptions. Having students tell you what they know about Solution Focused Counseling before content is directly presented is an example of initial assessment. Depending on student answers, you will be able to determine if they have an appropriate knowledge of the topic or if they have misconceptions to be addressed.

Middle assessment
Middle assessment is given to students at the mid point of a unit or semester to determine their progress and can be used as a means to plan the final portion of the unit or semester. Middle assessment can provide valuable information to you as an instructor and to the student to assess their learning. Middle assessment may also be the most difficult to plan. It can be very difficult to “know” how much a student should know at the middle of a unit or semester. Middle assessment can become very individualized and requires detailed feedback from the instructor and or classmates.

Final assessment
As the name suggests, final assessment is given at the end of a unit or semester. Final assessment could be summative, formative, and it most likely formal.

Assessing and evaluating student performance is at the heart of teaching. This statement is even more important in professional education—like counseling. Not only do instructors of professional programs have to monitor and develop student progress they have to think about the quality of service provided and how that will impact future individuals receiving services. Counselor educators have a dual ethical responsibility to their students and their student’s future clients.
When developing a class assessment should not be an afterthought but rather interrelated with course content and pedagogy as its foundation. The following questions can help ensure sound assessment.

What is the central topic students will be able to demonstrate at the completion of the course (course content)?

What is the best way to interact with the students and course content to increase understanding of the important concepts (pedagogy)?

What assessment procedures can be employed to monitor understanding and application throughout the course (assessment)?

The above definitions and examples of assessment procedures should help in creating a sound course.

Last modified: Monday, 29 June 2009, 01:49 PM