Field Notes | Week Four – Assessment, Alignment and Feedback

Assessment & Feedback: How is it really going?

It’s the last week of classes for the semester! You have worked so hard and dealt with all of the change, stress and unknowns that have come with this massive shift to virtual teaching, on top of all the impacts the pandemic has had on your own lives outside of the University. Of course, with the end of classes comes the other ritual of the end of the semester: final grades. This week’s posts are all about the question that remains near the conclusion of every semester, online or in-person: Are my students learning what I’m teaching? In some ways, assessment and feedback will look different during this period of online instruction, however the root purpose of these two tools will persist, regardless of course modality.

Assessment provides a means to gauge student learning and inform instructional decisions, checking on the shared responsibility between teacher and student. Right now, feeling connected as partners in the business of learning is especially challenging making it that much harder to determine if all our efforts are reaching students. So, we look to assessment to see if students can show what they have learned. Although incredibly difficult, a complete change in how we interface with students provides the opportunity to revisit course outcomes and the ways we teach toward them.  When outcomes drive assessment, then assessment is the necessary balance to instruction. Assessment provides evidence to you and students that learning is occurring and informs next-steps. Well-placed and well-designed assessment provides regular feeds of information through which you can affirm what is going well and pinpoint needs before things derail too drastically.

So when should assessment occur, and what can it look like? This is the same online as it is in person: assessment should occur at regular intervals, and it should take the format that lets you answer the question: Did my students meet their learning objectives? If you think of the learning objectives as the eventual destination, then assessment should not be a barrier to student success: it should be the waypoints providing you and students regular updates along the journey. In practice, this likely looks different in an online-first environment, whether that’s mostly synchronous, asynchronous or blended. Throughout this week’s blog series, you’ll meet instructors at CI that are navigating assessment and feedback in successful and creative ways. We hope this week’s sharing provides useful information both for wrapping up your semester, as well as some food for thought as you consider assessment and feedback practices for spring. 

This Theme’s Featured Faculty:

  • Tuesday | Stacey Beauregard (English) shares how end-of-module surveys have helped her and her students stay connected with the course throughout the semester.
  • Wednesday| Hillary Tejada (Chemistry) shares how she used VoiceThread to help create a continuous sense of community across semesters for students adjusting to online learning.
  • Thursday | Stacey Anderson (English) shares her experience with contract grading and a cohesive view of assessment throughout an entire semester.
  • Friday| Emily Fairfax (ESRM) shares her approach to “gamification” of her course as a way to encourage participation and generate excitement, while simultaneously empowering her students.

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