Assessing Student Learning and Providing Effective Feedback

In my own learning experiences, I have found on many occasions that the grade I received in a course did not reflect that amount of learning I perceived to have achieved. This was a very frustrating realization for me and is something that I hope to avoid as a teacher. One of the best ways to avoid this situation is to develop good relationships with students. Doing so allows for closer interactions and informal assessments of understanding that are not associated with grades but do provide an honest assessment of student understanding. Graded assignments and/or exams are unavoidable but, by taking this approach, both the student and teacher can feel more satisfied that the grades being given reflect the amount of learning.

On graded tasks (e.g., assignments, quizzes, exams, essays), it is important to give students a clear picture of the requirements and how the task fits into the learning objectives for the class. Otherwise, these tasks can feel particularly onerous and be the source of frustration. For this reason, I give explanations of tasks and their fits to learning objectives in the syllabus (see an example here), give a clear description of the task when it is assigned, and, at the same time, provide a clear rubric with expectations.

I also rely on mid-semester evaluations, office hours, and peer-assessment to help assess student learning and to provide feedback. In the middle of the semester I conduct evaluations where I ask students to tell me what is and is not working in the class. I go over these evaluations in class and tell the students how I will address their concerns.  Additionally, I encourage students to come to me whenever they have an issue, or just to chat. I always have set office hours but my door is always open and students are welcome at any time. I find that this helps to foster better relationships with my students and leads to opportunities for informal assessments through friendly conversation. Finally, I ask students to be a resource for each other. It is perhaps cliché, but the students really are a valuable source of information and feedback. In all of these approaches, I strive to be as open and transparent as possible so that students know what is expected of them and how they will be assessed. This way, when grades and feedback go out, I can be confident that students’ learning will match the grades they receive.

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