Instructors Need to Rethink Student Assessment Methods

by Elliot Markowitz  (via Fierce Education) | Oct 29, 2020 10:00am

Whether designing an online or hybrid course from the ground up or revising an existing course for online delivery, creating an authentic assessment of students while preserving academic integrity is crucial.

Faculty and instructors are having to rethink their courseware design to include different ways to monitor and assess a student’s progress and knowledge in an online or hybrid learning situation. With student motivation a challenge in the current higher education environment, instructors need to reconsider the old ways of assessing courseware progress and incorporate additional methods to measure a student’s understanding of the material while preserving academic integrity.

With a class that has moved online, instructors must put aside their fears of student cheating and embrace new motivation and assessment methods, said Douglas Harrison, Vice President and Dean of the School of Cybersecurity and Information Technology at the University of Maryland Global Campus during REMOTE: The Connected Faculty Summit. They need to approach course design with a more supportive and positive lens and not through a preventive or disciplinary one, he said.

“I want to really emphasize how we can use assessment design as a leverage for academic integrity and really kind of deemphasize any of the technology components of detection and deterrence. And what I really want to note here is that the discussion starts not with an emphasis on how do I stop cheating in my assessments, but it really starts with how do I design the most effective and authentic assessment,” Harrison said.

The way to think about it is to look at the common backwards design model that instructors know works for the most effective courseware design. Moving assessments online then creates openings to optimize their alignment to outcomes and increases student successes, he said.

The Backwards Design Model:

    • Outcomes: What will students learn
    • Assessment: What is acceptable evidence
    • Design: Meaningful learning experience

“What are the most meaningful teaching and learning activities that will scaffold a structure for [students] to demonstrate their knowledge most authentically when it’s time to measure what they know?  This move to online, partially or fully, really gives us an opportunity to optimize the alignment of our outcomes with our assessments,” Harrison said, adding that instructors need to start moving away from a deficit model approach and think about growth and developmental mindsets.

Higher education institutions are making a transition to online learning and there is a way to do it that is still enriching giving students the same or even superior experiences and opportunities to demonstrate what they have learned, Harrison said. “It hinges on the authenticity of assessments because that’s critical to the authenticity of education,” he said, adding designing a course is very similar to the “Moral Obligation Supply Chain”.

The Moral Obligation Supply Chain:

    • Instructors: Design fair and honest assessments
    • Students: Fairly and honestly demonstrate learning
    • Instructors: Fairly and honestly assess student learning
    • Institutions: Certify student’s knowledge and abilities

“Instructors design fair and honest assessments. Students are able to demonstrate their knowledge and then instructors come back and assess that knowledge. Authentic assessments, authentic ways of being able to measure what students know get at the heart of what we’re able to guarantee about the certification of student knowledge,” Harrison said.

So, what makes up an authentic assessment?  “Authentic assessments are engaging and worthy problems or questions of importance in which students must use knowledge to fashion performances effectively and creatively.  The tasks are either replicas of, or analogous to the kinds of problems faced by adult citizens and consumers or professionals in the field,” he said.

Authentic Assessment in Practice:

    • Is realistic
    • Requires judgment and innovation
    • Asks the students ‘to do” the subject
    • Replicates or simulates the contexts in which adults are tested in the workplace or in civic or personal life
    • Assesses the student’s ability to efficiently and effectively use a repertoire of knowledge and skills to negotiate a complex task
    • Allows appropriate opportunities to rehearse, practice, consult resources and get feedback and refine performance and products.

“Authentic assessments really engage and empower students to demonstrate knowledge,” Harrison said. “But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a time when traditional or more direct assessments work. It really only means that when we are designing assessments, we really want to emphasize the value in an approach that gives students the opportunity to demonstrate and to celebrate what they know and doesn’t inadvertently put them in a position where their worth is being kind of proven,” he said.

However, while doing so academic integrity must be preserved. Instructors can confidently assess students and better engage them by incorporating more “construct supply” types of assessments and less “supply response” methods, according to Harrison.

Supply Response: Predetermining options from which students make a selection

    • Multiple choice
    • True/False
    • Matching
    • Binary
    • Checklists

Construct Response: Students create their own response as the answer

    • Essays
    • Short answer
    • Blank fills
    • Sentence completion

“When we have the opportunity, we typically find that the richer types of learning demonstrations come from what is categorized in the ‘construct’. Again, not that the more direct or objective supply forms of assessment are inapt, but it gives us some opportunity to see that there are possibilities to rethink how we engage in these sorts of assessment activities,” Harrison said.

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