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Planning assessments

Planning assessments

Brightspace supports modern learning methods and one way it proves itself is through the variety of assessments that can be accommodated through the platform.

While the above is a great benefit to students’ learning value and success, it is relatively easy for Instructors to overload students with assignments. A tried and tested way of avoiding that is by mapping out the assessment structure of a course well before setting up content in Brightspace.

  • The first and most crucial step is to consult the existing Assessment Strategy. This document supports the mission and vision statement of the faculty and is a focal point of any existing assessment policies. It is generally recommended that the assessment policies and the assessment strategy be reviewed periodically and updated where necessary. The assessment strategy should provide a mechanism for enforcement of the policies as well as a method for providing evidence that they are being followed.
  • Create an assessment plan. The assessment plan guides the selection and creation of student-focused assessment activities across the curriculum. This plan, in coordination with TU Delft and Faculty assessment policies, should provide guidance to faculties for selecting proper assessment activities and alignment with learning outcomes. Overall, the assessment plan should be centered on:
    • Outcomes to be achieved
    • Performance levels to be attained related to those outcomes
    • Methods for analyzing the performance results

Specific metrics to be evaluated, as well as benchmark levels of performance to be achieved, should be expressly identified within the assessment plan. The performance results should be reviewed, analysed, and shared with stakeholders. Key points for improvement based on these results should also be identified and improvement actions should be recommended. Those actions can then be reviewed, approved, and implemented. This continuous improvement cycle can then be repeated over time, creating a history of continuous improvement.

Instructional design is a very important component of an effective course. When developing learning materials, it is best to identify the learning outcomes that the learner needs to achieve before creating these materials, and then align appropriate assessment activities to those outcomes. Assessment is the cornerstone of education, even more so in 21st-century learning. The type of assessment to be chosen should be directed by the learning outcome to be evaluated, and should be in line with the assessment plan for your faculty. It is also important to identify material and supporting resources to help the student demonstrate mastery of the outcome.

Another important concept to be considered is “authentic assessment” or evidence-based assessment. This prepares students for the workforce because the assessments are as close as possible to real-life experiences. How we decide to assess is as important as what we are assessing. There needs to be as much attention given to the type of assessment as to developing a learning outcome. The alignment of both will ensure coherence between the what and the how. It is important to consider the journey students must undertake to be prepared for their authentic assessment.

The learning activities are the stones on the learning pathway toward the successful achievement of competencies. Whether formative or summative, the goal of these activities is to involve students in their learning to ensure they are successful in their assessments. As stated in 2001 by Stiggins, the idea is “to involve students directly and deeply in their own learning, increasing their confidence and motivation to learn by emphasizing progress and achievement rather than failure and defeat.”

The learning activity must be chosen appropriately based on the learning outcome that it relates to. Different types of learning activities support different types or levels of evaluation better than others. For example, automated grading of quizzes works well with lower-level cognitive domain concepts such as Bloom’s Taxonomy levels of “remember” and “understand”, where multiple-choice, true/false and fill-in-the-blank question types are appropriate. However, for higher-level cognitive skills such as Bloom’s levels of “analysis”, “synthesis” and “evaluation”, other more direct assessment types could be more appropriate. These could take the form of written essays, case study analyses, and observational grading. These types of assessments require a human evaluation rather than being machine gradable.

With a competency-focused approach, the assessment informs the student that he or she has the skill to move forward, which is why the alignment between the outcome and the assessment is so important. As mentioned in the 2011 Competency Works report, assessment needs to be a meaningful and positive learning experience for students. Prior to being assessed, students should feel confident that they would succeed given the preparation that was given. Stiggins (1999) states: “If these students are to come to believe in themselves, then they must first experience some believable form of academic success as reflected in a real classroom assessment. Even a small success can rekindle a small spark of confidence that, in turn, encourages more trying. If that new trying brings more success, then students’ academic self-concept will begin to change. Our goal is to perpetuate this cycle.

Success criteria enable students to know exactly what the assessment is all about. It is a generally-accepted best practice that students should know the performance criteria for which they will be evaluated. This is even more important in a competency model where the underlying premise for all students is that they will succeed and demonstrate mastery. This practice enables transparency and makes the learning explicit. Specifically, Rubrics are an effective way to formulate these criteria. However, remedial pathways also need to be in place. If the student doesn’t succeed in the assessment, alternative content and learning activities should be available to help fill in the gaps. This alternative material should provide additional learning opportunities and information related to the outcome being assessed. The supplemental learning activity should also be a separate assessment to which the student has not been exposed. Measures should be in place to ensure that the assessments are evaluating the outcome at the appropriate mastery level and the Instructor needs to know how they are measuring learning. This review is often supported by a Curriculum Map which is used to identify where (in which courses) various concepts are evaluated and also to what level those concepts are being evaluated.

Brightspace and other learning technologies can enable this phase of the cycle with learning analytics. The professional judgement of the lecturer will also come into play. This is the marriage of the quantitative and qualitative assessment of students. The assessment results should be evaluated to identify student success but also identify areas for student improvement, motivation, and encouragement. The results data can also be used for course improvement. Improvement and optimization decisions would be made based on the learning analytics and outcome achievement data collected from the course.

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