Guest Blog Post from Kimberly Seeber. Kimberly lives in Bloomington, Indiana, US. She is a licensed elementary teacher and a graduate student in the Instructional Systems Technology residential master’s program at Indiana University. Her interests include technology integration in the K-12 environment and online learning. Kimberly is sharing the wealth of knowledge from Week 3 of the Designing an Exemplary Course MOOC focused on authentic assessment.

Instructors discussed possibilities of how assessments can be implemented efficiently. In addition, the instructors evaluated the advantages and disadvantages of utilizing pre-packaged assessments, open education resources  and custom-designed assessments.  One instructor defined an assessment as authentic if it is client or project-driven or if it involves service learning opportunities.  Another instructor commented on the emerging need for concentrating on student competencies as opposed to knowledge transfer.

Efficiency

When classmates critique paper drafts, the load for the instructor is reduced.  While peers catch minor mistakes such as spelling and grammar errors, the instructor can focus on the content.  Providing students with checklists can reduce the burden of an overworked instructor.  Writing personalized feedback in the beginning curbs the students’ desire to email instructors with numerous questions about grades.  Recruiting teaching assistants to help with the grading is valuable.  Obtaining the administration’s support to reduce instructor-to-student ratio is appreciated.

Feedback Library

An instructor shared an efficient and meaningful way to provide qualitative feedback on students’ assessments.  She organized and archived constructive feedback collected from several instructors.  Next, she organized the feedback in a table.  Then she entered the feedback into the Microsoft Word’s Auto Text feature.  This system freed up time so that she can write personalized feedback once she has selected the constructive feedback from the archive.  Teaching assistants can even use her system easily.  To extend this system she suggested that a separate library could be created for students to use when they critique each others’ work.

Auto-Graded Assessments

Auto-graded quizzes offer students immediate feedback, which is more beneficial than waiting for the instructor to grade them manually.  Multiple-choice tests are known for convenience.  These tests can be graded quickly but generally only assess knowledge.  However, it is possible to use multiple-choice tests to assess higher order thinking skills, claims one instructor.  First, a case must be written. Here are guidelines one might follow when writing the multiple-choice questions:

1) Identify important elements of the case;

2) Evaluate the case by identifying what steps need to be taken to solve a particular issue;

3) Apply knowledge to come up with a resolution.

Moreover, this particular instructor pointed out that multiple-choice questions do not always have to be text-based. Multiple-choice questions can also be written so that students evaluate charts, graphs, tables, images and videos.

Interactive Assessments

Some instructors create interactive assessments for online course modules.  Quiz formats might include true/false, multiple-choice, hot spot (click on the correct spot), matching, and ranking of audio/visual clips.  Instructors use Adobe Captivate to create simulation-based assessments.  Adding video avatars to online modules engage learners because the online module is dynamic.

Peer Feedback

Classmates can be the first to evaluate electronic portfolios.  They can record their feedback on a wiki.  One instructor pointed out the importance of providing clear guidelines for critiquing each other’s work.  Without establishing specific expectations, students’ feedback is typically inadequate. One instructor shared interesting insight about feedback.  He noted that students demand plenty of positive comments and praise; however, when they receive constructive criticism, they rarely take it into consideration and apply it to their future work.

Instructor Expectations

One instructor suggested assigning students the task of grading a former student’s paper using the instructor’s rubric so that they clearly understand the instructor’s expectations.  Providing students with examples of an “A,” “B,” “C,” and “D” paper with a rubric also demystifies an instructor’s expectations.  Using blogs and wikis is a convenient way for students to evaluate their peer’s work and offer constructive criticism.

Group Work

One benefit of grouping students is that it reduces the number of assessments for an instructor to grade.  Requiring group members to self-assess and group-assess group contributions provide valuable feedback for the instructor.

Formative Assessments

“Muddiest Point” papers are a valuable way to check students’ understanding.  The idea is simple; students share thoughts on concepts they are unsure about.  Opinion polls are another quick way to assess students’ understanding.

Summative Assessments

Instructors assign a culminating activity such as a final presentation or project for a summative assessment.  Another suggestion made by an instructor is to provide feedback on a major project, such as a portfolio, throughout the semester. Wikispaces, PbWiki, and Taskstream are examples of services that are currently being used by some instructors.

Rubrics

A rubric can be given with the expectation that the student verifies that his or her project contains all the necessary evidence.  In addition, a rubric should be provided with an assignment so that an instructor’s expectations are clear.

Assessments for Reflection

Students reflect and apply what they have learned in online journals, blogs, and wikis.  Completing selected and/or constructed response items that correspond with case studies simulate an authentic experience. Reflection tools provide a space for students to synthesize what they have learned over the length of the course.  Giving students an opportunity to reflect on what is missing after a project is created is a creative way to credit a student’s enduring understanding.

Pre-Packaged Assessments

The instructors believe that using the pre-packaged assessments certainly save time and can be implemented if the assessment aligns with the course goals and instructional objectives.  Therefore, a careful evaluation of the pre-packaged assessments will ensure reliable instruments.  One publishing company was noted to include clicker-enabled questions.  A disadvantage for using pre-packaged assessments is the inability to make modifications due to the copyright protection.  An inconvenience of pre-packaged assessments is the need to go out of the learning management system to the publisher’s website.  Another disadvantage to using pre-packaged assessments can be the difference between the terminology on the assessment and what the instructor teaches in the course.

Open Education Resources Assessments

Using open education resources for assessment purposes allows instructional designers to modify the content.  Open education resources provide a rich assortment of options.  However, searching for quality resources is time-consuming.  Furthermore, the resources may be high quality but fail to align with course goals and objectives.

Custom-Designed Assessments

Creating custom-designed assessments that are based on current events is more meaningful and relevant to students’ lives.  Yet creating custom-designed assessments is time consuming and can even be expensive.  In addition, it may be challenging to customize an assessment while at the same time maintaining reliability and validity.  Despite the disadvantages, creating custom-designed assessments appeared to be the popular choice.  The attraction to a custom-designed assessment was primarily to align it with course goals and objectives and secondarily, to make it interesting and relevant.

Conclusion

Overall, instructors seemed to agree that an eclectic approach was the way to go.  Likewise, administering multiple assessments is necessary in order to make a valid inference on a student’s status.  The caveat is to balance graded and ungraded assessments, assign assessments that provide authentic experiences when possible, assess both low-level and high-level skills, and utilize technology, teaching assistants, and peers to assist with the workload.

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