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Assessment

Fall 2021: Pandemic Resilient Teaching


 “Assessment” refers to the practice of collecting information about student learning, and acting on that information to improve learning. Assessment information can help you, the instructor, adjust your teaching strategies to meet students’ evolving needs. For students, information gathered from assessments can inform them about how they are doing in a course and what adjustments they might need to make in order to be successful. Incorporating regular assessments into your course will help you and your students stay in touch about how their learning is going, and make informed adjustments to teaching and learning strategies as you progress through the course together. 


 

Strategies to measure learning and engage students

In the table below, we share ideas for effective assessment, including information on adapting assessment tools that you may have been using during remote teaching to a return to in-person learning.

 

Assessment Strategies

Assessment Strategy

Adapt Remote Strategies for In-Person Teaching

Implement this equitably by...

Incorporate "real time" learning checks into lectures or class sessions to gauge student learning and make instructional adjustments

If you liked using this tool during remote instruction...

Zoom polling to pose a question and quickly see whether students are on track

You could adapt this to in-person by using...

  • Polling software such as PollEv or Mentimeter, which students can respond to on any device with WiFi
  • iClickers  
  • Have students hold up ABCD cards , or hold up 1-5 fingers with eyes closed for quick checks
  • Not all students will have devices. Consider pairing students up or working in groups to answer.
  • Remind students that they can purchase equipment second hand if needed, such as iClickers.

Create low-barrier opportunities for students to submit questions and for instructors to track common areas of confusion

If you liked using this tool during remote instruction...

Zoom chat for students to ask and answer questions during lecture

You could adapt this to in-person by using...

  • Exit tickets to collect student questions and takeaways
  • Canvas Q and A discussion board where students can ask and answer questions, and instructors and instructional assistants (IAs) can also respond
  • Provide an anonymous option for submitting questions
  • Address the top 2-3 questions in an informal recorded video or Q and A forum post; invite those with other questions to come to office hours or post to the Q and A board

Encourage discussion and group work, and view student responses to track learning

If you liked using this tool during remote instruction...

Breakout rooms and whiteboard/annotation features

and/or

Canvas discussion boards or Perusall , a social reading and discussion tool

You could adapt this to in-person by using...

  • Pair-and-share or group work; instructor and TAs circle the room to check in
  • Padlet is a free tool that provides a shared pinboard-like space for uploading media as well as text posts, liking, and comments. Students can log on and contribute, “like”, and comment during class.
  • Consider highlighting student responses to pre-class discussion board posts or Perusall assignments during your lecture, to reinforce the assignment’s value for learning and acknowledge student work
  • Provide structure and guidance around group dynamics so that students understand the kind of interactions that will support their learning and others’ learning
  • Consider assigning and rotating group roles (e.g. reporting, note-taking, summarizing, facilitating)
  • Provide and discuss example responses to discussion board questions or Perusall annotation assignments so that students know how to be successful

Design quizzes and exams that reward and support learning

If you liked using this tool during remote instruction...

Low-stakes Canvas quizzes that students can attempt multiple times

Low-stakes Canvas quizzes with auto-generated answer feedback so students can see an explanation of various answer choices right away

Configuring Canvas to drop the lowest score, or replace earlier scores if students score better on later cumulative assessments

You could adapt this to in-person by using...

  • Canvas quizzes with these features will still work well to support learning in a face-to-face class; students can complete outside of lecture/class time as a learning check, or even log on to Canvas while in the classroom to complete for a real-time learning check
  • Consider two-stage exams, in which students take an exam, then immediately retake all or part of the exam with a group for partial credit
  • Ask students to turn in a practice quiz or low-stakes assignment to practice the format and logistics of submission before any high-stakes exam
  • Provide flexibility on meeting assessment deadlines for students continuing to be impacted by the pandemic
  • Consider implementing an authentic assessment that meets your course learning goals (more details below)

Creating engaging and authentic assessments

Many instructors transitioned to new ways of assessing student learning during the pandemic. Traditional exams can be difficult to implement remotely, and pandemic impacts on students necessitated more flexibility in assessment formats and deadlines. As we return to campus, we can leverage the best of what we have learned from these new assessments to continue to offer our students meaningful, authentic measures of their learning.

If you implemented a new type of assessment during the pandemic and are considering whether to continue with that option or return to your pre-pandemic assessment strategy, here are some questions to consider:

  • What are your course learning outcomes , and what kind of assessment best aligns with these goals? Assessment is most effective when well-aligned with learning outcomes. For example, if students are expected to be able to…

  explain basic evolutionary processes to a non-scientific audience 

as a learning outcome, a multiple-choice test might not be the best-aligned assessment method for this outcome, as the assessment type is not well-suited to ask students to engage in any explanation. After this assessment, you (and the students) likely will not know if they could explain these concepts to an outside audience. On the other hand, an assignment to make an infographic or brief podcast aimed at the general public might be more appropriate, and would give you a much better sense of whether students have achieved this outcome.

 

  • How can I continue to support flexibility for my students and myself, given the ongoing nature of the pandemic?

Although most students and faculty are planning to return to campus for Fall, the pandemic continues to affect students and instructors. You and your students might be navigating personal or financial losses, continuing to reside away from your normal home, or continuing to provide caregiving. High-stakes, time-limited exams can be stressful for students and faculty, and can be challenging to transition quickly to remote if needed; you might consider whether a final project, open-book exam, or other form of alternative assessment could meet your course’s learning goals while offering more flexibility. 


  • Can I measure learning effectively by asking my students to engage in authentic tasks? 

Authentic assessment asks students to demonstrate their learning through behaviors and tasks that more closely replicate a “real-world” environment (often, though not always, a professional one). For example, a Political Science student might be asked by their internship advisor to prepare a policy brief; a Mechanical Engineering student might be asked to work on a team to design an experimental approach to a specific engineering challenge. If appropriate for your course’s learning outcomes, authentic assessment can create engaging and particularly meaningful learning experiences for students while also effectively measuring their learning. 

 

For more information on authentic assessments, please click here to view a short introductory video from Engaged Teaching Hub. 

If you have questions or would like to consult about designing an assessment strategy that is appropriate for your specific teaching context, please contact Engaged Teaching Hub for a consultation .

Authentic assessment samples

The examples below have kindly been shared with us by UC San Diego faculty and staff who have implemented authentic assessments in their course. We are grateful to our faculty partners for sharing their materials. 

 


Reflective Journaling

Course: Topics in Organizational Behavior (30 students)
Assignment: Throughout the quarter students engaged in regular journaling and reflected on the process. 

  • In Week 1, students read an article about the role of reflection and journaling as a leadership tool. 
  • Starting in Week 1, students write in a journal for 5 minutes per day. 
  • In Week 4, students review their journals to reflect on what they have been exploring through writing and then submit a 1-page reflection about their experience with journaling, including themes or patterns they notice, and the impact of journaling on their thinking about their leadership. 
  • Students choose 3 pages of their journal to submit as part of the final course leadership project as supporting documentation.

 

(Example courtesy of Alison Bloomfield Meyer, MGT 439)



Ignite Talks

Course: World Civilization 1500-present (40 students)
Assignment: Students worked in groups to prepare, record, and present 5-minute ignite talks on a course-related topic of their choice.
Learning Outcomes:

  • Articulate a thoughtful presentation on a topic worthy of discussion.
  • Design a presentation that raises awareness of historically underrepresented voices.
  • Appreciate the diverse backgrounds of your audience and present with empathy and compassion.

Instructions:  Choose a topic on ANYTHING you have learned over the past 8 weeks that you would like your audience to consider deeply and perhaps even take action on. The purpose of the Ignite talk is to engage and make your peers curious.

 

(Example courtesy of Paul Hadjipieris, Engaged Teaching Hub)

 


Public Messaging Midterm

Course: Language, Culture, and Education (50 students)
Assignment: On this midterm project, students were asked to create a product of their choice that shared a core idea of the course. This project incorporated the #USvsHate campaign and gave students the opportunity to submit their products in the #USvsHate at UC San Diego contest.
Instructions: 

  • Create a poster, digital image, meme, infographic, PowerPoint slide, short video, or other multimedia message to share a core idea from this course with the public. For examples of multimedia messages, browse “Winning Messages” on www.usvshate.org , the #USvsHate at UC San Diego   website, and review this “Guide to Making Your #USvsHate message.”
  • To accompany your message, create a brief “backstory” of five related information points or ideas from the course/readings that can help an audience be more fully informed about the issue in your message and have a productive conversation sparked by your message. This backstory should be no more than a few paragraphs. It could be on the back of your poster image, a slide or two following the main PowerPoint slide, a voice-over for a video, etc. Use this backstory to also discuss the intentions behind your message.
  • List works referenced so that you share resources with others.  
  • To be considered for the “#USvsHate at UC San Diego” contest, you’ll submit your message and backstory at usvshate.ucsd.edu/submit .

(Example courtesy of Dr. Mica Pollock, EDS 117; See more examples of assessments incorporating #USvsHate at UC San Diego. )



Oral Quizzes

Course: Bioengineering Mass Transfer (130 students)
Assignment: Every other week, students submitted 2-minute audio recordings in which they responded to prompts that targeted conceptual understanding. For instance:
  • Quiz 1: 
    • In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, what is something you’ve been grateful for? ( Note: starting with a low- or no-stakes question unrelated to content helps students gain comfort with the quiz format and practice submission procedures. )
  • Quiz 2: 
    • What is flux? What are its units? In what direction does it occur?
    • Why do diffusion coefficients have two subscripts? What do they represent?
  • Quiz 3:
    • What is the equation of change? What are its components?
    • What terms are affected if the diffusion coefficient is increased?
    • What terms are affected if you assume the system is at steady state? 

Grading Information: TAs graded as they listened to the recording using a simple rubric. Each TA assessed approximately 30 students, for a total assessment/grading time of 1 hour per TA per week.

 

Sample Rubric for Quiz 2:

Oral Quiz Sample Rubric
Criteria Ratings

What is Flux?

Properly describe flux as the movement of mass or energy through a medium.

3.0 - Full Marks 0.0 - No Marks

Units of Flux

Properly describe flux as: 

(mass or energy) divided by (area and time)

3.0 - Full Marks 0.0 - No Marks

Directionality of Flux

Flux occurs in the opposite direction of the concentration gradient.

3.0 - Full Marks 0.0 - No Marks

Subscripts of Diffusion Coefficient

Define that the subscripts of diffusion coefficient are used to properly denote the interactions being described by the constant. 

3.0 - Full Marks 0.0 - No Marks

Representation of the Subscripts

The subscripts describe the solvent and solute being modeled using binary diffusion. 

3.0 - Full Marks 0.0 - No Marks


(Example courtesy of Dr. Stephanie Fraley, BENG 103B)

Collecting and responding to early student feedback

This academic year will continue to be a time of transition and change. Collecting and responding to early student feedback as the middle of the quarter approaches is an important way to assess how the course is supporting student learning, and any challenges they might be facing, while there is still time to make course adjustments. 

There are several options for collecting and responding to early student feedback:

  1. Get one-on-one support from an Education Specialist.
    Request support from an Education Specialist in the Teaching + Learning Commons Engaged Teaching Hub who can provide consultation on survey questions, collect and summarize student feedback, and provide guidance on responding effectively to the feedback. We can host an anonymous survey for you and provide summary results to you or we can help you to adapt a survey of your own ( Click to request a consultation )

  2. Create your own tool to ask students what’s working well for them in the course and what they might be finding challenging.
    Create a Google Forms survey  with open-ended questions, embed the link in an announcement in Canvas , and encourage students to fill it out. If you have time during lecture or another synchronous meeting to have students fill the survey out, this can be a good strategy for raising response rates. We recommend questions that focus on student agency in monitoring their learning environment. We have found these questions to be effective. (Please email us if you would like support with adapting a survey in Canvas or Google forms: engagedteaching@ucsd.edu).

  3. Encourage students to reflect on their own challenges and to seek support.
    Whether you choose to work with an Education Specialist or design your own feedback tool, this point in the quarter is also a good time for students to check in with their own learning and consider what changes they might wish to make going forward. We encourage you to include a question in your survey that asks students to reflect on what they could do to enhance their learning in your course, and to address these ideas in your response to the student feedback you collect.

Regardless of how you collect feedback, it is important to respond to the feedback you receive in some way (for example, via Canvas announcement, email, or in lecture). You can share with students any changes you plan to make based on their feedback, and thank them for sharing their experiences. It might not be possible to address every common concern raised. Some suggestions might be out of your control, or not able to be implemented until a future course, but acknowledging the feedback communicates that students’ time and willingness to share their experiences are valued.

Please click here to read our full resource on collecting student feedback, including more guidance on interpreting and responding to feedback, as well as information on how collecting early student feedback can demonstrate your commitment to teaching effectiveness.