Increase Student Performance Via Assessment

Assessment-Wordle_1

We all know why the assessment of student learning is important…

Assessment – that is, consistent, ongoing, timely feedback – is required for any kind of student, unit, program, and institutional improvement to occur. This process provides:

  1. Opportunities for the academic community to engage in self-reflection of its learning goals, to determine the degree to which these goals align with student and marketplace needs, and to evaluate if students’ overall performances coincide with the institution’s expectations;
  2. Information to students about the knowledge, skills, and other attributes they can expect to possess after successfully completing coursework and academic programs.
  3. Avenues for academic units to understand the dimensions of student learning when seeking to improve student achievement and the educational process.

Moreover, assessment is needed to remain accountable, and accountability, in the end, provides:

Evidence of student achievement to accreditation groups, state legislators, and other stakeholders in education. Specialized, professional, and regional accreditation bodies hold institutions responsible for providing reliable evidence of the continuous improvement of student learning.

If the end goals of each cycle are to make improvements so that we can increase student achievement and provide evidence of those improvements and achievement, we should more closely consider the role of students in what should be a student-centered process.

Communication

Communicating learning goals, objectives, outcomes, and expectations is one
practical way of enhancing achievement. Inform students of detailed expectations and specific learning objectives from the very beginning of a course or program of study, repeat it at check points and keep it at the forefront of their minds throughout each academic term. This creates clear, focused goals for students to pursue.

McMillian (2000) in his work on Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation states that in order for assessment to be considered fair, students also must know the format of the assessments; they must know “what will be tested, how it will be evaluated, scoring criteria, and examples of performance.” In addition to providing this information, instructors can prepare students for assessments by giving them opportunities to practice with the format of the assessments. For example, if students will take a written essay exam, faculty can provide students with sample questions that reflect the quality of exam questions.

This brings us to our next strategy. Upon completion of draft or practice work, students can be involved in applying the scoring criteria to their own work as well as the work of their peers.

Self Assessment

Participating in self-assessment can help students track their performance. Understanding how to apply self criticism and evaluate one’s work can initiate students’ understanding of the connections between evaluation and achievement – with further research showing that that when students understand and apply self-assessment skills their achievement increases. It’s during this process of consistent self-assessment that students observe their own improvement and are more likely to feel motivated to achieve.

Peer Assessment

To further the understanding of what “needs improvement” really means, students should also engage in peer assessment. They will see examples of both poorer and better work, and this firsthand experience shapes their learning.

If (or once) students start to see a variance in their self or peer assessments of others in relation to instructors’ assessments, they will better understand the target level of the outcome. Self and peer assessment to some extent allow students to take ownership and responsibility for directing their learning progress – creating a greater sense of control over their success.

Instructors further facilitate learning by providing students with constant, direct feedback on their learning progress.

Constant Feedback

Directly communicate the results of quality, authentic assessments to facilitate continued student success. The way in which results are reported to students can help them identify their own strengths and weaknesses. Assessment should be viewed as a self-reflective learning tool for students and an opportunity for instructors to present concrete advice/questions/evidence for learning improvement. Simply indicating a letter grade on an assignment does not provide students with any indication of what improvements need to be made and what concepts need flushing out.

Academic assessment is an ongoing process that requires continuous re-evaluation to determine whether teaching and learning processes achieve the goals and objectives defined by faculty and administrators at the institution. When students do not achieve those goals and objectives, changes should be made. And when students succeed in achieving those goals and objectives, perhaps we can conclude that those changes in the teaching and learning process are working. Similarly, in using the strategies discussed here, faculty can create their own mini cycles of assessment and improvement within their courses by more directly engaging students.

This, in the end, builds and drives the process of assessment – a continuous cycle of improvement at all levels – and hence the development of a culture of innovation.

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