Preparing for Assessment

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Assessment properly understood represents a continuation and culmination of the teaching and learning process. With the course learning outcomes firmly in view, we teach, we provide meaningful opportunities for rehearsal, practice, and application, and then we provide feedback on student progress throughout the semester. Following are a few tips to consider in order to ensure that our students have the best opportunity for success in their assessments.

Align teaching and learning with assessment practices

As you decide on participatory learning activities for each class, bear in mind how you are going to assess the learning. Will there be a multiple-choice quiz?  In that case, some of the practice activities in class should include multiple choice questions. Will there be a case study assignment? If so, make sure students discuss case studies before the assignment.  Will students need to solve problems as part of an assessment? If yes, provide them with the opportunity to solve problems in class and as homework. By the time of each assessment, they should be clear on the depth of complexity expected of them. What will this do for students?

  • If students have experienced the types of assessment questions they can expect in your course, they won’t have to spend time during the assessment learning the assessment process. Instead they can focus on demonstrating what they know and what they can do.
  • Students who have been prepared for the level of complexity to be expected in your assessment will perceive that the process has been fair and transparent. They will be far less likely to challenge the assessment.
  • Students who are new to Canadian assessment practices will benefit from a clear alignment and careful preparation for testing practices.  It will help everyone else as well!
  • Alignment should also ensure that your assessment practices as well as your participatory learning processes line up with the course learning outcomes.

Decide how you will mark each assessment and share this information with students in advance

If you are going to use a rubric to mark a presentation, a report, or a case study, create the rubric while you create the assignment instructions. Also, share the rubric with students when you provide the instructions. This principle holds for any type of marking scheme. Why is this important?

  • The rubric or marking scheme clarifies the expectations of the assignment. Students should be able to check the marking scheme for clarification before they start the assignment and as a kind of checklist as they complete their work.
  • Students who know how the assignment will be marked will perceive the whole process as fair and objective. Again, they will be far less likely to challenge the assignment.
  • Students who have never been assessed using a rubric before will benefit from guidance in how the process works.  Everyone else will also benefit!

Make sure that your evaluation section in eConestoga is robust enough

Upload all details of every assessment at the beginning of the semester or well in advance of any due dates. E-copies must be uploaded in advance of when students would be expected to start preparing for an assessment. For a short report, this should be at least a month in advance and include a robust assignment description and a marking rubric or scheme. For a large group project even more time is advised, and check points should be built in and class time for guided work provided. You should have a space holder with at least a description of each assessment from the beginning of the semester.  Why are these practices so important?

  • This is an essential element of eConestoga. You can find the Essential Elements checklist under the Faculty Support tab in any of your courses in eConestoga for a description of what must be uploaded to eConestoga.
  • Many students will want to plan their whole semester in order to ensure their own success. They will need to know what is expected and what each assignment is worth, so they can plan for how much time each assignment is going to take.

Note: You may have just started teaching a course for which the provided items are not robust enough. Add to them! Imagine what a student would need to know and add an additional file with Q and As, more tips for success, cautions, etc.

Decide on assessment protocols and share them with your students well before an assessment

This is especially relevant for quizzes and tests.  There are many good resources on assessment protocols, including the Conestoga Faculty Orientation Handbook and the instructional video created by Teaching and Learning on Proctoring an Exam. What will protocols accomplish for you and your students?  Carefully thinking through expectations and explaining them to students will achieve the following:

  • Students who are new to College processes will know exactly what to expect so that they can prepare accordingly.
  • You will have an easier time proctoring an assessment if you have prepared rules and processes to cut down on opportunities to cheat.
  • Clear preparation for assessments eliminates most unpleasant surprises the day of a quiz or test.

Treat students as you would want yourself or your son or daughter to be treated

Of course, students should remember pens, pencils, erasers, and calculators when arriving at the test. Almost certainly, a few students will bring the wrong implements or forget an eraser or other essential tool. It is a very good idea to come to a test or quiz with a few extra implements.

Consult if you have questions

Check with your colleagues, your subject matter experts, and your Chair if you have questions about departmental expectations. If you would like to discuss an assessment, a rubric, or a process, contact anyone at Teaching and Learning.  

Laura Stoutenburg

A college professor and accredited TESL trainer for more than 20 years, Laura Stoutenburg, holding an M.A., has taught and developed curricula for a variety of topics, with her work including language assessment in China and Canada. Before joining Teaching and Learning as a consultant, Laura coordinated Conestoga’s TESL Certificate and English Language Studies programs. She specializes in matters related to Intercultural Teaching and language acquisition, and is available at the Kitchener Downtown Campus.

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