Assessment refers to the system of processes and tools used to understand and measure student progress. Assessment provides windows into your students' progress toward learning goals, and ultimately helps students understand "Have I learned what I need to learn?"
Two things are necessary to be able to understand this progress: a clear statement of learning goals, and a means to measure growth (assessments). Once you identify the assessments you will use to measure student learning, you can then identify the learning activities (lectures, projects, homework, group work) that will help students’ understanding and skills move them toward the learning goal. This backward design model requires you to start from the goals, and work your way back to the learning activities that support them.
A learning goal focuses on student learning, rather than coverage of material. Learning ultimately depends on students’ development of skills and understanding, and doesn't happen simply because they've been exposed to material. Articulating which skills and understanding we want students to develop allows us to create assessments that track their progress toward those goals. Read more . . .
Goals-based teaching focuses on:
A learning goal should be concrete, measurable, and focus on what students will be able to do at the end of your course, unit, or class session. For example,
“My students will understand that the derivative of a function measures the slope of the line tangent to a function at a point, and will be able to use this concept to graph polynomial functions.”
Note that this goal is about what the student can do, not what will be taught. Because it is a specific descriptions of what students will be able to do, it can be measured. That measurement is the purpose of assessment.
There are several types of goals that you may emphasize at different points in instruction. Learning mathematics often includes a mix of acquiring facts, skills, knowledge, or concepts. For example:
What do you want your students to be able to do? Identify these goals for yourself, and communicate it to your students. These learning goals can then be the underpinning of your course and serve as the basis for developing learning and assessment activities to meet those goals.
How can you engage students in reflection about and communication of mathematics?
Which course activities can help students understand mathematics?
Which forms of assessment provide insight to skills, knowledge, and concepts?
How can assessments provide feedback to you and to them?
Do students have access to the tools they need?
Assessment typically plays two roles in instruction. Formative assessment is a set of practices that give both you and your students feedback on the their progress toward learning goals. Summative assessments measure whether students have achieved the learning goals at the end of a course, unit, or lesson. Read more . . .
Learning activities, formative assessment, and reflection are three parts of an ongoing cycle in goals based learning and assessment. For example, working on a project can help students learn, and at the same time, give you and them feedback on what they understand. Reflecting on the project as they work though it can lead the instructor to create or refine learning activities, and the students to focus their efforts.
Summative assessment can then provide a summary assessment of student progress at several milestones throughout the course.
Have a library of assessment tools and learning activities in mind, so you can choose what works best for the facts, skills, knowledge, and concepts you want students to learn.
Avoid assessing too many things in one activity. If the student is unsuccessful, it may be hard to discern what they know and what they don't.
With multiple choice questions:
Use unambiguous language and avoid double-negatives or other complex sentence structures (Which of the following is not true for all real values of x?).
Consider allowing students to revise and resubmit work so they can learn from their errors.
Balance good assessment practices with what is realistic to grade.
Identify for yourself and your students why the assessment structures (e.g. open book, time limits, use of calculators),are important to the things you want to assess.
Read below to find assessment models.
Identifying what you want students to learn and how you will be able to assess their learning can inform how you develop activities that will help them learn. Here are some examples that go beyond traditional exams and homework problems. Many of these can be used for either formative (during learning) and summative (evaluating learning) assessment. Many of the assessment models listed here are also learning activities--as learning and assessment occur simultaneously, as students see what they are learning and can adapt strategies to better reach their goals. Read more . . .
Rubrics provide formative feedback, and make grading easier and more consistent. They also communicate clear expectations to students, to allow them to focus on your learning goals. A rubric is a tool that delineates performance expectations, usually along several dimensions—for example, use of definitions, reasoning, communication, correct solution. A rubric includes clear definitions of each dimension and of the criteria that define levels of mastery, and identifies the weight given to each dimension. Rubrics can be used for any type of assessment: projects, presentations, class participation, exams, portfolios, etc. Rubrics are often used separately for each problem on an assignment.Read more . . .
Rubrics have several advantages for both instructors and students:
Rubrics can be relatively simple, defining the dimensions and the criteria for full credit.
Or a rubric can provide specific detail about point levels, with the anchors in each row ensuring greater consistency while allowing graders to assign the full range of points.
There are many styles and structures of rubrics. Your college or university might have a standard format they prefer, or you can work with colleagues or look online.
The Eberly Center at Carnegie-Mellon University's Assess Teaching and Learning
7 Exam Questions for a Pandemic (or any other time) by Francis Su
Quality Matters Research Library – the research basis for Quality Matters online and hybrid course standards
The Educause Library links to evidence-based articles and publications related to teaching and learning with technology, particularly in the hybrid and online modalities
For more about teaching and learning mathematics, visit our Teaching Resources page.