Creating an Effective Assessment
Assessments are an integral part of the learning experience. Among other things, it is the way we are able to check for student understanding and determine when to move on in the curriculum. However, aimless or ineffective assessments are an unproductive use of instructional time and can be a source of aggravation for both the student and the teacher. So, how do we create an effective and productive assessment? Here are some tips to get you started!
Be sure your assessment provides useful feedback for both you and your students. A good test or quiz will provide feedback to the student as quickly as possible. If there is time for it, wrong answers should be explained. Knowing why an answer is wrong is much more helpful than just knowing that it is wrong. Assessments should also be designed to gain specific information including which areas students may struggle with, how well the students are mastering the concepts, and whether or not there is a need to circle back and reteach information.
Test what is taught. This is a fairly simple concept, but one that many teachers miss. Many educators will use information irrelevant to course content to assess certain skills. This diminishes meaning for the student and creates a missed opportunity for the teacher. Choose content carefully, then read over questions to ensure that the important concepts and information are what is truly being assessed. Keep the grammar of test questions clear and straightforward and make sure correct answers are neither obvious nor vague and ambiguous.
Integrate the assessment into the learning process. Assessments should be folded into the natural progression of the course as to not disrupt the flow or confuse the learner. Short, frequent quizzes are more effective and less disruptive than solely administering long tests at the end of several chapters or units. Think of the assessments as ensuring a certain level of mastery of course material before a student moves on. Assessments can also be creative and do not have to simply be multiple choice, short answer, or essay tests. Depending on the subject, things like storyboards, group speech projects, labs, debates, and diaries (among many others) are fun and effective ways to assess student learning.
Make sure the assessment reinforces and rewards learning. A good assessment not only gauges student understanding, but also highlights the most important course material. By causing the student to recall and explain the information, it is also enforcing the learning. Students are also motivated by rewards. A reward for positive achievement might be as simple as a high score, various academic incentives (i.e. scoring a 90 or above on all tests and quizzes earns the student a pass to skip the final exam), or as involved as a personal certificate or group prize (i.e. class pizza party) at the end of successful completion of the course.
Creating an effective assessment is an essential component of becoming a veteran teacher. Honing this skill will benefit both you and your students for years to come.
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