Guest Contributor: Erin Doppke, Senior Instructional Designer, Cengage Learning Custom Solutions.

There’s no need to wait to review data collected from student satisfaction surveys or final examsit may be that the keys to making tweaks to your course to improve learning for next term are already in your hands. In this post, Senior Instructional Designer Erin Doppke provides advice on increasing the effectiveness of your course by evaluating it using assessment information.

How do you evaluate your course’s overall effectiveness and decide whether or not you’d like to make changes for the next term? Share your ideas and experiences with your colleagues in the comments section below.

Do you recognize these situations?

  • The short-answer assignment in week three of your course is a bear. You know it, and truth be told, you dread grading it every semester. Students never do well on it.
  • The midterm for your course is usually a breeze for your students. Almost all of your students get all of the questions right every semester.
  • You know one of the course objectives for your course isn’t being met by most of the students. The assessments that test the objectives are just not doing the job. You just don’t feel right about telling students (through the syllabus) that “By the end of the course, you should be able to…” and then really not doing it.

One step you can take to increase the effectiveness of your course is to evaluate it using assessment information.

Students Don’t Perform Well

One way to take a look at the data is to determine how students are doing both in terms of overall test performance and individual item performance.

  • Check the alignment between objectives and preparatory activities, including lesson content. Does the assignment represent the objectives appropriately? Are the lessons relevant to students, and therefore engaging?
  • Consider giving students a “practice” version, and give them clear feedback and a chance to master the content prior to the assignment.
  • Check the test itself. Is it clear and well-written? Is it relevant and engaging? Perhaps the assignment is written too narrowly or too broadly, or perhaps it is written at a Bloom’s level that is too high for the objectives. Is there a clear rubric that is made available to students so they know how to measure their own performance? Are there opportunities for remediation, if appropriate?

Students Perform “Too Well”

Doing too well is just as much of a problem as doing too poorly. An assignment should be “just right”—not too difficult, not too easy. It should challenge the students, but not stress them. Once again, check the preparatory activities—do they “give away” the assignment too much? Perhaps the assignment is written at a level that is too low for the objectives. Or perhaps the questions aren’t well-written even if they align to the objectives! Consider revising for clarity and quality.

A few tweaks here and there may be just the ticket to ensure that students are meeting your instructional goals!
For more information on using Bloom’s, see //www.bloomstaxonomy.org/.

For more information about motivating students properly, see //www.uww.edu/learn/motivating_students.php.