Everyone involved in shaping student learning has a responsibility to do meaningful and impactful assessment.
Assessment should help you answer essential questions about the student learning experience. And because of the care you hopefully put into crafting learning outcomes for student engagement, you should be measuring reality compared to expectations.
If you’re teaching a course or facilitating a co-curricular workshop – especially in an online modality – you’ll have ample data available for assessment. Certainly, you can find summative data to inform future improvements, but this blog will focus on formative assessment methods — that is, data you can review and changes you can make while the experience is still occurring. You can learn more about formative versus summative assessments here but, for now, let’s dig into techniques for data-informed instruction.
SHAPING YOUR APPROACH
As with any assessment cycle, the place to start is with outcome mapping and assessment planning. By aligning outcomes and interventions, you can narrow your focus as to what and where to assess. Outcome maps can help identify opportunities to string together complementary data sources. And multiple data sources can enable you to draw connections for performance over time and across interventions for student success.
As you determine methods and data sources, targets within assessment plans can help set the tone for what outcomes you expect. It is important to leverage multiple stakeholder perspectives in assessment planning, as it’ll paint a picture for what learning could look like and how to notice if students are off track.
Multiple perspectives matter since student learning is not always the same for each student. You should consider a variety of behaviors, strategies, and performances to inform your approach and response to observations.
Check your perspective with respect to your data, especially as time goes on within any given intervention. Be mindful of timing and student investment in your course or workshop. How might engagement look different in the first hour versus the first day or the first week? What does student learning or progress look like at an early milestone versus halfway through or near the end of the experience? It’s vital to consider this, particularly as you determine appropriate responses.
For example, if a student isn’t turning in their work, they may need an intervention to quickly uncover the root of the issue — whether it’s technical, academic, or personal. The same could be said for a student whose class attendance is strong but is turning in incomplete assignments; reach out to understand what is going on.
And for students who engage and excel initially but then their behavior becomes inconsistent over time, be sure to check in. Sudden changes in behavior can be indicative of a change in circumstances, which may necessitate resources and support from other areas of the institution.