Assessment is where we ask if what we are doing as teachers is working in helping students learn, how students are learning and finally, what students have achieved regarding the learning outcomes. Categorically, this is assessment of instruction, formative assessment and summative assessment.
How do you know if what you are doing is working?
Often, we wait until the midterm to find out how many students pass to let us know how it is going in our class. Or use the semester end student evaluation to find out what your students thought. Both of these are almost ‘too late’ scenarios – we want to know early and often how our efforts are being received in regards to learning. In every class, you want have structures in place to find out how ‘what you’re laying down is being picked up’. There are numerous ideas for activities to include to give you this information so you can respond and adjust as you go.
Additionally, as instructors, we want to be self-reflective and assess ourselves in an ongoing manner to consider how we might grow. We also can benefit from having the input of others, such as a colleague we invite in to, as a friend, provide feedback on what we are rocking and where we could grow. COLT staff are also available to come sit in and follow up with a conversation about what took place in the class. When COLT is invited in, know that we will only ever talk to you about your instruction. This is a great avenue to have someone provide feedback for your growth.
With regard to student learning, you want to know what is working for each student and where they remain puzzled or where learning has not occurred. This is known as formative assessment – it can let you know and the student know where they are at as they work towards achieving the learning outcomes. Means of formative assessment are varied and typically low stakes or no stakes (very little consequence in terms of marks – rather, meant to be informative about where the student is at).
At the end of the day/course, however, there are learning outcomes that students are meant to have achieved. To find out how well they have, indeed, achieved these outcomes, we use summative assessment (meaning final total, so to speak). These are higher stakes assignments that count significantly towards the final grade.
For principles of assessment and ideas on ways to assess, see the links below.