I had the privilege of attending Wednesday’s Faculty Coffee Circle on creative ways to assess student learning, which was organized by Tara Carr-Lemke, Director of The Explorer Connection, and facilitated by LeeAnn Cardaciotto, Psychology Department.
The attending faculty members discussed their successes with assignments that get students to keep up with course requirements, demonstrate higher level thinking, actively contribute to the class, learn from their initial attempts and missteps, and develop a foundation for life-long learning. Some of the effective strategies included:
- Offering more low stakes assignments, which are worth fewer points and are less intense than exams or projects; these assignments give students opportunities for practice and feedback
- Asking students to generate their own questions or having them facilitate class discussions
- Keeping students on track with comprehension quizzes in Canvas
- Literature circles – a technique adapted from K-12 instruction that assigns students different roles to assume while reading and discussing a book with their peers
- Journals or reflections that ask student to think on their process for completing certain assignments, including mistakes they made along the way and what they learned
- Case-based learning
- Peer review of assignments
- Creative writing or performance-based assignments – role-playing, poetry, or songwriting as a vehicle for demonstrating learning
Many of these assignments are referred to as authentic assessments because they are grounded in contexts that are authentic to how students will be expected to use that knowledge in their careers or in their lives.
Below are some resources that faculty shared during the coffee circle as well as additional information that can help others begin to implement these types of assessments.
The Benefits of Authentic Assessments
Traditional assessments, like multiple choice and short answer tests, usually test students’ ability to remember or apply basic facts or principles. Because authentic assessments often involve solving unique problems or creating original work, they are useful for assessing knowledge at higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. For these same reasons, it is much more difficult for students to share answers or work.
Because authentic assessments are framed in contexts beyond the classroom, students can build real world competencies and prepare for their careers.
The Authentic Assessment Toolbox is an excellent resource created by Jon Mueller, Professor of Psychology at North Central College. It provides a good introduction and a four-step process for getting started.
More Strategies and Resources
- Attend the authentic assessment session or other assessment sessions as part of the 2015 PASSHE Virtual Conference
- Examples of Low Stakes and High Stakes Assignments via LeeAnn Cardaciotto, Psychology Department
- Tips for Peer Led Discussion via Megan Schoen, English Department
- Task Sheet for Literature Circles and The Power of Literature Circles in the Classroom via Laurel Bryne, Education Department (see research and support for Literature Circles below)
- Making the Grade: The role of assessment in authentic learning, including many examples of authentic assignments and strategies for evaluating student work
- Nick Gogno’s blog post on Designing Authentic Assessments
- Authentic Assessment Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Stout
Articles and Research
- Five Dimensional Framework for Authentic Assessment (2004)
- Authentic Assessment: Principles, Practices, and Issues (1991)
- Support for Literature Circles: Welcome to Literature Circles and Recent Research on Literature Circles
Support Opportunities on Campus
Contact Tara Carr-Lemke if you want to get involved in future Coffee Circles regarding assessment or the upcoming assessment workshops on campus.
Contact the Instructional Design Team if you want to brainstorm opportunities for including new types of assessments in your courses.