How do I assess students?
Learning assessments fall into two broad categories:
- Examinations (quizzes, mid-terms, and finals)
- Assignments (research papers, group projects, explanatory lab reports, presentations, etc.)
Exams require written test items and scoring guides. The scoring guides show how many points to allocate for correct and sometimes partially correct answers.
Assignments require grading rubrics. Rubrics specify the expectations for the assignment and help keep grading consistent. Required elements of rubrics include grading criteria and points, or a range of points, that students earn by meeting the grading criteria for the assignment.
Design examinations and quizzes with learning goals in mind.
When writing a quiz or exam question, consider the type of knowledge you want students to demonstrate. You may want some questions to test knowledge of facts. Other questions may require students to show how to begin a process. Questions that require more thinking than simple recall include questions asking students to apply a concept in a new context.
In each of these cases, you can use a more open-ended question (e.g., fill in the blank or short essay) or a multiple-choice question. Quiz/exam question design also requires consideration of item level of difficulty. A stratification of difficulty helps distinguish students who have learned deeply from students who have not.
We often think of multiple-choice exams as testing only rote memory. A skilled question writer can assess higher levels of thinking with multiple-choice items. There are multiple resources, from experts across the field of education, for designing multiple-choice quizzes and exams.
Design rubrics to support consistency in grading, communicate expectations, and provide feedback.
Rubrics help instructors:
- Evaluate student work with consistency
- Share expectations for assignments
- Communicate students’ strengths and weaknesses
A rubric supports consistency and fairness in grading as it standardizes the elements of an assignment that are graded. It shows the attainable tiers of performance.
Sharing rubrics along with assignments gives students up-front knowledge of the expectations for their work. A brief discussion of the rubric prior to an assignment due date can help students focus their efforts.
Across a semester and multiple assignments, students and instructors notice patterns in areas of excellence or improvement. These patterns are the data that students need to make adjustments in learning strategies.
Examples of excellent rubrics appear at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) Value Rubric website. You will find detailed rubrics on analytical thinking, written communication, oral communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and more. Examples of rubrics from a College of IST course appear below in Figures 1–4.
Building rubrics in Canvas saves time in grading. You can integrate rubrics in Canvas with the SpeedGrader grading tool. This allows instructors and graders to show numerical scores and comments on the rubrics. For directions on how to create rubrics in Canvas, see the Instructor’s Guide.