Assessment and Evaluation of student learning at the course-level, then, falls into two categories:
- Formative assessment and evaluation - assessment FOR learning to inform teaching and improve learning; used as feedback devices
- Summative assessment and evaluation - assessment OF learning to make judgements about individual student achievement & assign grades
Angelo & Cross (1993, Classroom Assessment Techniques) highlight characteristics of classroom assessment:
- Learner‐Centered – its focus is on observing and improving learning, rather than on observing and improving teaching
- Teacher‐Directed – the individual teacher decides what to assess, how to assess, and how to respond to the information gained through the assessment
- Mutually Beneficial – students reinforce course content and strengthen their self‐assessment skills; faculty sharpen their teaching focus by asking 3 questions: “What are the essential skills and knowledge I am trying to teach?”, “How can I find out whether students are learning them?”, and “How can I help students learn better?”
- Formative – its purpose is to improve the quality of student learning, not to provide evidence for evaluating or grading students; it provides information on what, how much, and how well students are learning
- Context‐Specific – the assessment technique is chosen to fit the subject matter and the needs of the particular class
- Ongoing – it is an ongoing process, i.e. the creation and maintenance of a classroom “feedback loop”; as this approach becomes integrated into everyday classroom activities, the communications loop between faculty (teaching) and students (learning) becomes more efficient and effective; it provides early feedback – before students are evaluated for grades – so that necessary adjustments can be made
They are often ungraded and informal. Their aim is to provide both the students and instructor with a gauge of where their level of understanding is at the current moment, and enable the instructor to adjust accordingly to meet the emerging needs of the class. Do I need to re-explain that concept differently? Do I need to backtrack two steps and catch everyone up to where we are now? Do I need to change my pedagogical approach to engage this group of students?
Formative evaluations are particularly important because they allow you to make changes that affect the current students, while the end of term forms only affect future classes. In addition, formative evaluations signal your class that you are indeed interested in what and how they're learning, and in their responses to your teaching.
Some examples of Formative Evaluations:
Check student understanding in a lesson by asking them to take out a sheet of paper and take one minute to, for example, write down an explanation of a concept, solve an equation, or draw a main point from a reading.
Muddiest Point Paper
Check student understanding in a lesson by asking them to take out a sheet of paper and take one minute to write down a single question about, or the most confusing aspect of, the topic of/for the day.
After working through a topic, ask students to explain the content to a lay audience in their own words.
In order to conduct a mid-semester evaluation, you might want to use the generic Standard mid-semester evaluation, or modify it in any way; there may be particular additional questions you would like to ask, for instance. If you do use some form of mid-term evaluation, we encourage you to discuss the results with your class, explaining for instance, why you can't cut down on some topic, or why, based on the suggestions of the class, you will add a discussion of a particular topic.
How to present a mid-semester evaluation to your class:
"Today, I'd like you to fill out a short mid-semester evaluation. The information you provide is just for me, and your input is extremely valuable. It helps me gauge how the course is progressing at the moment, that is, what is going well from your standpoint and whether you have any suggestions for how we might proceed for the rest of the semester. It also lets me know whether you are learning what I hope you are. I will report back to you about the results of this evaluation."
Summative assessments are used to evaluate student learning at the end of a unit or course and often determine course grades, or at least carry great value towards that determination. Summative assessment tools most commonly utilized are mid-term or end-of-term exams to determine the level at which students achieved the expectations for their learning as prescribed by the instructor and to identify instructional areas that may need additional attention.
*Information from summative assessments can be used formatively when students or faculty use it to guide their efforts and activities in subsequent courses.