All pieces of assessment should be tied to your learning outcomes. Once you have decided upon the learning outcomes for your course, you are ready to design all of your assessment pieces for the course. The assessment pieces should measure whether or not the learning outcomes were achieved.
A quiz is usually short and not worth many marks, whereas an exam is usually longer and contributes more to the students final grade. Traditionally a course would have a midterm exam and a final exam but some instructors are now replacing them with other modes of assessment such as projects, portfolios or presentations. The newer forms of assessment are able to measure more skills other than memorizing or applying factual information through paper and pencil methods.
When designing an assessment, the time available for completion should be considered and the test questions designed appropriately. When time is short and classes are large, instructors tend to use a multiple choice format where students are not required to write or give much narrative of their knowledge. If you have more time or want to know more specifically what each student really knows, then you would use longer answer and higher order thinking questions.
Instructions are a critical aspect of your assessments. Make sure that instructions are clearly outlined on the assessment and the instructor should also announce the instructions verbally to reinforce the correct process.
It is a good idea to test your assessments by giving them to someone else – a colleague or friend to see if there are any ambiguities in the instructions or questions. You want to be as clear as you can so that the assessment is evaluating the knowledge intended and the student is not distracted by unclear instructions or questions.
The last step in creating your assessments is the weighting. Not only how much an assessment piece counts toward a final grade, but also the weighting of each individual question in test in relation to how important that content piece is within the learning objectives of the course. The weighting of the questions should be written on the test so that students can decide where they should spend most of their time to do a good job.
Paper-pencil assessments are usually multiple choice, matching, fill in the blanks, short answer, long answer or true/false. There are guides to assist you in creating each type, usually multiple choice is the most difficult to create properly. Here are a few suggestions for multiple choice creation:
a) stems should be clear, positively stated and grammatically correct with the listed alternatives
b) words should be kept to a minimum and important words should be emphasized
c) all of the above and none of the above should be avoided as alternatives
d) alternatives should all be of similar length
e) distracters are believable
Online assessments will have the same type of creation process with a few other items to consider:
1) Will there be a time limit on the assessment?
2) Will students be able to attempt the assessment or an individual question more than once?
3) Does your technology support self-scoring or immediate feedback?
4) Will all students take the assessment at the same time and place or can they access it on their own time?
Once you have created your assessments, you can inform your students of the type of questions and level of questions to expect so that they may prepare properly. You may wish to give a sample assessment that they can practice on or a review sheet that includes the material about to be examined. Let the students know if they can bring any notes or equipment with them – for example, equations or formulas that they will need to use during the assessment or whether a calculator or other equipment can be used. Many instructors include formulas needed within the assessment so that the students do not have to memorize them. If the amount of material to be tested is large it is not unusual for students to be able to bring in a small paper with notes (a recipe card, for example). In this case, the questions asked in the assessment are of a higher level than just fill in the blanks or matching, asking the students to apply the information that they may have brought in as study notes.
Once the assessment is completed, instructors should make every effort to get feedback to the students as soon as possible. When marking is completed, instructors should analyze the results to identify any problem questions where most or all students were incorrect and ones that all students answered correctly to judge whether the questions are at the appropriate level and were communicated effectively.
Analyzing results of assessments can assist the instructor in planning future lessons, being able to carry on in areas where students did not have difficulties and perhaps reviewing or re-teaching certain sections.
Assessment should be for learning and future development so feedback should be provided to the students and they should be given time in class to see where they made their mistakes, either by sharing with a peer or the entire class going over the assessment.