Just as a physician takes a pulse to assess a patient’s health, instructors use educational assessment techniques to monitor the effectiveness of teaching and achievement of learning outcomes in the classroom. Assessment provides valuable feedback that is used to adjust the presentation of instruction or to place students in programs. Traditional assessment tools often utilize a test instrument such as true-false or multiple choice. These instruments are designed to solicit either recall or identification skills of students. Other assessment techniques, such as authentic assessment, measure real-world situational knowledge. What methods can be used to take assessment beyond the traditional test?

Alternative assessment ideas

Consider these alternative “Classroom Assessment Strategies” from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Walker Center for Teaching and Learning.

  • Portfolio: When tied to a specific learning outcome the portfolio gives students the opportunity to assemble their essays, labs and other assignments that demonstrate their learning.
  • Essay: Students explain a concept in writing, showing how they think about the subject and reflecting deeper understanding.
  • Categorizing grid: Students sort information into appropriate conceptual categories. This provides faculty with feedback to determine quickly whether, how, and how well students understand “what goes with what.”
  • Pro and Con Grid: Students list pros and cons of an issue. This provides information on the depth and breadth of a student’s ability to analyze and on their capacity for objectivity.
  • Problem recognition: After being shown examples of common types of problems students are asked to identify the problem types. This tells the teacher if the student is ready to move on to matching the problem type to a solution method.

Authentic assessment

Jon Mueller, Professor of Psychology at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, gave examples of authentic assessment (AA) techniques in his Authentic Assessment Toolbox. AA asks students to demonstrate essential knowledge and skills by performing real-world tasks that are analogous to the types of problems faced in daily life and the work environment.

Unlike traditional testing, which asks the student to identify or fill in the correct answer, AA asks the student to demonstrate understanding by performing a more complex task. According to Mueller, “Authentic assessments often ask students to analyze, synthesize and apply what they have learned in a substantial manner, and students create new meaning in the process as well.”

Inclusive assessment

The challenge of assessment is to keep in mind the diversity of students, beyond gender or learning styles. Instructors face the challenge of serving students who speak another language, have a disability or who have cultural beliefs and practices that vary from the mainstream American customs.

In their textbook Teaching in Today’s Inclusive Classrooms: A Universal Design for Learning Approach, Third Edition, Richard M. Gargiulo and Debbie Metcalf emphasized strategies that teachers can use to help all students by accommodating their differences. The authors featured case studies and research-based strategies for instruction, classroom management, assessment and collaboration in today’s diverse classroom.

Their emphasis on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach illustrates how general education teachers can choose flexible instructional strategies, tools, activities and evaluation methods that allow for student differences and remove the barriers from academic success.

Cengage also offers a MindTap Education module to accompany the textbook. This customizable teaching and learning solution helps beginning teachers understand concepts critical to becoming a great teacher, practice skills and prepare artifacts for a portfolio.

What alternative assessment strategies work best in your classroom? Tell us in the comments.

Reference:  Gargiulo, Richard M; Debbie Metcalf. 2017. Teaching in Today’s Inclusive Classrooms: A Universal Design for Learning Approach, Third Edition. Boston: Cengage Learning.