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Summative (Tests) and Formative (Surveys) Assessment

Susan Edington and Cathy Hunt include a succinct overview of "Classroom Evaluation and Assessment" in their Teaching Consultation Process Sourcebook (Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press, 1996: 57-66). The question that resonates throughout this book--as it apparently should resonate throughout our course planning--is "What do I want my students to know and be able to do as a result of this lesson, unit, or course?"

So testing starts with planning out the objectives to be tested--preferably at different levels of Bloom's taxonomy of cognition. Test questions should also be written for different levels of cognition.

"As a rule, include some questions from all six categories of Bloom's Taxonomy, but make sure no more than 40% are knowledge oriented."
1. Test banks are convenient, but they are rarely classroom tested, let alone validated, and they don't necessarily reflect the concepts you stress in class. 2. Teacher's objective tests have good news and bad news for each format: a. Fill-in-the-blank questions designed to elicit term or short-answer questions for getting definitions are easy to write but don't take much thought to answer. b. Marking statements true or false can test students' ability to distinguish fact from opinion, and this sort of test item is easy to grade, but they also permit guessing and can work against divergent thinking. c. Matching is very compact, but still only for factual recall. d. Multiple-choice questions can get at more than one level of cognition, but doing so takes time and can still work against divergent thinking. 3. Performance tests aim to determine if students can really use course content under somewhat real circumstances. [I keep thinking of the sharpshooter in the movie Glory who is challenged to reload his musket while his commanding officer shoots off a pistol just behind his head--because a skilled field soldier could fire and reload fast enough to get off three shots per minute. The sharpshooter was a great shot, but he had to become an adept reloader. The impromptu test taught him an invaluable survival lesson.] . Portfolios help faculty to evaluate the abilities of their students, as they have done in studio courses for some time. The trick is to think of your course in terms of

what students will produce that shows learning. For instance, a portfolio in a history course might includes a student's written or audio-recordeded reaction to one lecture, an analysis of data from several lectures and reading(s), a factual report or opinion piece written for the college or local newspaper (whether it was submitted or published or not) relevant to course concepts, review of a book or an annotated bibliography (or "webliography" if the portfolio is done as a website), some researched writing (such as a write-up of a poll conducted by the student and/or secondary commentary on the same topic to provide a national or a chronological perspective). The selection of work and its grading can accommodate any course objectives. Using a portfolio seems to make the student and the teacher more like allies in a common cause to meet course standards, usually with more flexible deadlines and guidance along the way. Students might even be distracted from working only for a grade. a. Videotape can be used to assess a variety of activities, e.g. presentations, debates, a science experiment, small group interactions, a math problem solutions, etc. b. Constructions or projects from maps and graphs to replicas, budget plans, computer programs, accounting files, and more. 4. Essay tests can assess any cognitive level, but they can be tricky to word in order to clearly match objectives. Anticipating all possible parts of an answer (or assembling all parts from those submitted) should make listing of parts easier for scoring. . It could help to focus students' studying by giving them probable test questions before the test. a. Distributing the a set of actual test questions about a week before the test as a study guide. On test day, let students bring in a finite set of notes, e.g. one 3x5 card or one sheet of paper for all questions, or maybe one card for each question. 5. Team testing should involve a four-person study team. About a week before the test, give out study questions. Students actually take the test in teams, handing in one test paper, although there should be an option to solo on the test. 6. Paired testing, like team testing, involves working from the beginning of the semester in pairs, studying and testing together, handing in one test paper. Switching partners, of course, should be allowed during the semester, and those who won't produce should be cut from pairs or pairs of producing students let to form new pairs.

Surveys, Questionnaires, Polls

Formative assessment consists of non-graded tasks that usually lead to aggregate data about one course, one unit, one day. Dozens of such methods are commonplace;

here's a selection: 1. Focused Listing is a paired activity. Teacher and students separately write a course concept at the top of a paper and list as many related concepts as they can in a set time, e.g. 15 minutes. Comparing the lists is the crucial part, and the teacher's list is not necessarily an "answer key," but it is a signigicant control. 2. Directed Paraphrasing involves having students tell a significant reading or lecture in their own words. Sort the paraphrases by quality, e.g. "top notch," "ok," "incomplete," "confused." If the latter two piles are the bigger stacks, that lesson needs to be reinforced. 3. Self-Diagnostic Learning Logs are logs for each class session in a course to list concepts understood vs. points of confusion. Students track problems and successes, and they summarize their findings for regular collection by the teacher. 4. One-Sentence Summaries require students to get the gist of a lecture, discussion, or reading, e.g. answering "who," "what," "when," "where," "why," and "how" on an index card. If student hands it in at the end of class, the card also verifies attendance. 5. Invented Dialogues challenge students to create a conversation as historical figures or proponents of particular philosophies, e.g. an 1850's abolitionist and slaveowner. 6. Assessment Cards permit quick assessments of students' understanding. One side of a card might say "true" or bear a large T, the other "false." Or a paper might be sectioned and labeled with the 5 stages as you tell a class the characteristic(s) of one stage and ask them to hold up the label of that stage. Students and teacher can see at a glance the majority view. 7. Student-Generated Quizzes offer a chance for students to show what they know by bringing to class 5 questions (or so) on a reading or lecture. These quizzes are collected and redistributed, taken as practice quizzes, and returned to the quiz writer for scoring. The teacher's role is to assess the cognitive level of the questions and strategies of answers to see if students in the course need further training for taking tests in that course. 8. Test Banking ends a class by asking the class to make a question based on the day's most important concept. Part of the next test should include at least one of these daily questions. Of course, the teacher gets to see if the students caught the most important concepts for the day. 9. One-Minute Papers rarely take only one minute, but they can provide an end to a class session by getting students to tell a. the most important concept of a class b. questions that remain

Although tests are used for grades, they can also be measured themselves to see whether they assess students' abilities to meet course objectives.

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