Assessing Student Learning

Our primary goal as instructors is to facilitate learning. But how do we know that students are actually learning the material and concepts that constitute a particular course? Here, I touch on different strategies I have used to assess student learning in the courses that I have taught.

I believe integrating “low-stake writing” (coined by Peter Elbow, 1997) is an effective way to periodically assess student learning beyond traditional tests and problem sets. By asking students to quickly reflect in 3-5 minutes on what was covered in class that day in an ungraded essay, students will feel at ease with their reflection and self-assessment. Another form of low-stake writing that I enjoy asks students to write about their writing process immediately after turning in a draft of an essay. This excerpt gives me access into the writers’ thoughts, including what they think went well and what could be improved in future versions. I use these activities to promote learning and encourage students to critically reflect on their own performance on a given assignment. Practicing self-assessment is essential for continual growth and development in the classroom and beyond.

Each student possesses different academic strengths and responds differently to various types of assignments. As an instructor, I prefer to assign different types of student assessment to evaluate learning; rather than rely solely on one type of assessment—say multiple choice exams—I prefer to use a variety of assessment tools to obtain a holistic perspective on student learning and performance.