Pedagogy / Assessment

Varying Assessments

To vary assessments simply means to offer different ways to measure your students’ achievements towards a goal or outcomes.

Relying primarily on one form of assessment probably tells you more about your students’ ability to use that assessment than their understanding of the subject matter. LMSs offer a variety of tools to serve different learners. Why not use them to incorporate principles of Universal Design for Learning and give students a variety of formats to express what they know?

Weights and Activities

Traditional assessment weight & design is often backwards. For example, look at the weights in the sample grading table below:

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Grading table that shows exams and quizzes have the most weight.

According to this grade table, exams and quizzes have the most weight–65%. We have to infer that they are the best forms of assessment for these students’ achievement.

Designing Exams & Quizzes

Sometimes traditional assessment through summative exams and quizzes doesn’t make sense for the subject matter and learners. The good news is there’s a variety of effective ways to deploy testing tools–as formative, open book worksheets, as low-stakes, repeatable practice, even as group work.

Here’s a brief article about one instructor’s non-traditional choice on testing.

Other Forms of Assessment

Many instructors realize the advantages of emphasizing other forms of coursework. Activities such as problem solving, taking part in discussions or self-reflection, all work to increase and support student learning. As you design your course activities, vary them to address different skills and learning styles, and be wise in assigning their value or weight towards final grades. When students see these weights, they will know what you think is most useful and most effective in helping them learn.

Look at this revised grading table for a more balanced approach to assessing student learning:

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Revised grading table, showing a heavier concentration of the term grade on weekly practice problems and discussions instead of the final exam.

 Tip: A student shouldn’t be able to skip an activity type and get an A in your course.

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