4 things I’ve learnt about assessment creation
This blog comes from a combination of experiences of creating assessments for students I used to teach and creating diagnostic assessments for students all over India and the Middle East.
Making assessments was one of those tasks that I never wanted to do. A part of it came from my naïve belief that why should I “judge students”? But very quickly I realised that assessments are key to giving feedback to students and helping them with their learning. With this realisation, I stopped thinking of assessments as separate from teaching. Operationally, this meant including assessments in my lesson plan. This shift was pivotal in not only improving my assessment items, but also improving student learning and experience in classrooms.
There are four major things I learned on my journey from being indifferent to assessments to making assessments integral to teaching:
1. Balancing teaching with assessing
Some of the most fun tests that I had to appear for in school and college were the ones that helped me learn during the test. And this memory stayed with me when I started creating tests. I tried to recreate this magic for my students. Predictably, I failed miserably. What I did not realise was that I had to pick the correct time to have tests that students learn from. A summative test or a diagnostic test cannot be a place where the student learns. In-class assessments and some formative assessments are great places to get students to learn during assessments.
2. Balancing cognitive load with question authenticity
Answering authentic questions was always fun for me as a student. Questions like “Montu has three watermelons in one hand and five in the other. How many watermelons did Montu have?” are not authentic questions. Authentic questions are relatable and plausible. Montu cannot carry eight watermelons in his hands!
My zeal to ask fun questions was suddenly tempered when I understood that students need to follow the question and not forget the important information from the question. I understood that if the testing objective is met, creating layers of complications on a question only confuses students. It creates what may be termed as a ‘working memory overload’.
3. Creating authentic rubrics
In the beginning, my rubrics looked as black and white as a chess board. ‘Student achieved the learning objective’ or ‘Student did not achieve the learning objective’. Though this type of rubric gave me some information, it was binary. I could not gauge student progress during the lesson. A little reading and quite a few attempts later, I was able to make authentic rubrics which could essentially trace the students journey from what they already knew to when they met (or sometimes surpassed) the learning objectives for the lesson.
4. Conducting informal assessments in class
Early into my teaching, I realised that assessments needed to be a part of lessons. Easier said than done! I planned to assess students during class – sometimes informally. But things did not go according to plan. I could not remember the feedback I was getting to my informal, in-class assessments. This is when the usefulness of well-made rubrics was reinforced for me. I would have a specific thing that I assessed in a day, have a rubric with different levels as columns and the student names as rows. After doing the assessment check, I would immediately mark where each student was in their learning journey in my rubric! Rubrics are BRILLIANT!
How can we use assessments in classrooms? How to make a good question? How to create usable and information-rich assessment rubrics? How to assess students in an online setting? To find out more about these and more questions, join us for a course on Assessments – Design and Analysis starting on 3rd July 2021.