Course Design Kit » Assesment & Evaluation

  • How do you know if your students are learning?
  • How do you know when they are misunderstanding important concepts?
  • How do your students know if they understand correctly and are meeting expectations?

The terms "assessment" and "evaluation" are often used interchangably but it is important to think about each as representing two different instructional activities. Assessment is a diagnostic tool. It is determining a learner's mastery of knowledge, skills and cognitive behaviors and responding to that assessment with feedback and, if necessary, further instructional activity. The feedback can come directly from you, the instructor, or built into a self-assessment tool like an online quiz, game or other activity. This is also known as formative assessment.

Evaluation is measuring student learning for the purpose of assigning a score. Examples are a graded quiz, exam, project or paper. This is known as summative assessment. It is important that students are assessed before they are evaluated. This gives students a chance to correct misunderstandings before they are graded and before moving on to new material. Assessment lets faculty know how to adjust teaching strategies to help students learn.

The Assessment Department can provide you with guidance and resources for assessing student learning and developing valid evaluations. Here are some guidelines and resources to consider: Practice Makes Learning

Practice makes learning

Assessment is central to the learning process because the act of retrieving information and concepts from long term memory is the most significant contributor to long-term retention. It is important, therefore, that students have the opportunity to recall or practice what they have learned.

Article: Practice Makes Learning This brief article describes working and long term memory processe and how practicing and recalling ideas and information is essential for developing understanding and long term retention.

Feedback corrects misunderstanding

For practice to be effective, learners must recall correctly. Corrective feedback, therefore, is necesary to develop correct understanding. Since retreival cements concepts into mental models, after a misunderstanding has been corrected, students should have the opportunity to correctly retrieve and apply information, skills and concepts again. Students, therefore, may need multiple and varied forms of assessment to practice correct retrieval and application and ensure that correct answers are built on understanding and not guess work. Assessments should be appropriately sequenced through the course to identify gaps in student understanding as they encounter new material.

Tips: Feedback_Summary_Points.doc (29 Kb) This guide is derived from a literature review conducted by Dr. Will Thalheimer, education researcher and consultant. The full report, "Providing Learners with Feedback: Researched based recommendations for training, education and e-learning" can be downloaded for free .

Assess to teach

No matter how much preparation and development goes into a course, you cannot simply wind it up and let it go. You must constantly assess student undertstanding to know if your activities support their learning or if another intervention is needed. The book Classroom Assessment Techniques has dozens of techniques to assess student understanding that can be quickly deployed in the classroom and online. This book is an available reference in the Teaching and Learning Innovation Center.

A number of educational organizations have published recommended CATs for online instruction. See this overview of CATs and these examples of CATs selected for relevance to (but not limited to) assessing technnical skill.

Evaluation: Align with Teaching

When it comes to evaluation, it is important to design valid evaluations: evaluations that align with what has been taught and in the manner that it has been taught. The Assessment Department can provide guidance on developing valid student evaluations.

This article (free login required) contains an interview on the subject of alignment between teaching methods and evaluation methods: Teaching One Way and Testing Another: An Interview with Scott Howell, James L. Morrison and Scott Howell, Innovate Journal of Online Education