Assessment and lesson planning

One of the best way to design a course or lesson is to work backwards from your course goals.  Below is a summary of this process as well as some information about assessment and rubrics.

Start with SLOs

Look at your student learning outcomes.  What are students expected to know and do by the end of the course?  How will students demonstrate that they have learned these things?  The answer to these questions should tell you the kind of assessments you will use.  At the same time, consider Bloom’s taxonomy.  Summative assessment, especially, should be looking at higher order thinking skills.  Think about assessment in terms of what your student will be able to do at the end of a lesson, unit, or course.

Here is a short list of verbs associated with each level of Bloom’s taxonomy.

Remembering: can the student recall or remember the information? define, duplicate, list, memorize, recall, repeat, reproduce state
Understanding: can the student explain ideas or concepts? classify, describe, discuss, explain, identify, locate, recognize, report, select, translate, paraphrase
Applying: can the student use the information in a new way? choose, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, operate, schedule, sketch, solve, use, write.
Analyzing: can the student distinguish between the different parts? appraise, compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, question, test.
Evaluating: can the student justify a stand or decision? appraise, argue, defend, judge, select, support, value, evaluate
Creating: can the student create new product or point of view? assemble, construct, create, design, develop, formulate, write.

Choose an assessment method

After you have matched up SLOs with a verb or two on Bloom’s taxonomy, start thinking about an assessment method, which again should be concerned with how students will demonstrate their knowledge; what will they be able to do?

Ways students can demonstrate learning through assessment:

  • Multiple choice, fill in the blank, short answer tests
  • Essays or other kinds of writing
  • Demonstration of skills
  • Presentation
  • Project
  • Interview or oral exam

Write the assessment

If it’s a paper/pencil test, write the test.  If it something that requires students to demonstrate a skill, write the assignment parameters and the assessment rubric.

Information about rubrics

What should be in a rubric?

At a minimum:

  • List of grading criteria. What do they students need to do or accomplish?
  • Description of a successful attempt of the assignment/criteria

Even better

  • Criteria is arranged in a hierarchical order and some grading convention is attached to that hierarchy, i.e. percent, letter grade, score.
  • A description of each criteria in each hierarchical level

Kinds of rubrics:

  • Holistic – provides an overall description of a successful attempt in a paragraph format. Instructors assign a grade based on overall impression of the work according to the criteria.  Very fast grading.
  • Analytic – lists each criteria separately. Instructors assign a grade to each set of criteria and use those to calculate a grade.  Slower grading but provides a little more feedback and can help guide instructor comments.
  • Check list – a list of criteria that students either performed or did not perform (pass or fail). Grade is based on how much of the list students were able to perform.  Fast but inflexible and students who performed the task but still failed will require feedback.

Choose a rubric based on what you like to use and the kind of assignment. Students should always have the rubric before they attempt the assignment. If possible, offer examples of satisfactory work of the assignment for students to analyze and use the rubric to grade that example with the students.

Determine what activities will prepare students for the assessment.

Ask yourself what do students need to know to be successful on the assessment and what skills do they need to practice to be successful.  Consider breaking large assignments into chunks.  Use the answer to these questions to help you make decisions about what you will teach in your class and how.

Determine what content is needed to complete activities

For some courses, most of the content that needs to be covered is assigned to you.  But you should still make sure that you cover all of the content (in some way) that will be covered in each activity and on the assessment.  So you might have to go beyond what’s minimally prescribed for the course.

Develop a plan for delivery of content and support for completing activities

Simply put, this is when you finally write out your lesson plans.  This where you decide when you’ll deliver the content and how and sequencing.  Also consider putting formative assessments in your planning.

Some additional information about assessment

Types of assessment

  • Summative – End of course or unit assessment. Final assessment on a particular goal or goals.
  • Formative – Throughout the unit assessment. Instructors use it to gather data on how well students are learning and proceeding toward goals.  It drives future lessons and/or review.
  • Authentic – Assessments that match real life activities including things students would be expected to do on the job.

Instructors should use all three kinds of assessments.  Summative assessments should be viewed as the assessments you use to determine if they’ve learned something.  Formative assessments should be used to help you decide if information or a task needs to be repeated or retaught or if it’s time to move on.  Even in a class where students are being asked to learn content and not a skill, they should be asked to apply that content in a meaningful way to something or some task they might actually have to perform with that content.


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