March 16 2009 - Refreshed April 15 2010
E-Coaching Tip 64
Three Best Practices in Assessment
Our tips for spring of 2009 are focusing on important basics of online learning — spiced with a few new ideas. This tip reviews three (of many possible) best practices in assessing student learning. These practices help to serve as a review of the range — from simple recall to knowledge creation — of assignments that instructors can use to assess student’s performance (i.e., assign a grade). These best practices build on some of the “Designing by 3s” strategies from the earlier design tip this spring.
Of special interest to experienced online faculty might be the ideas on expanding student choices for course projects. These include creating course podcasts, webinars, talk show interviews, wikis and blogs; in other words, branching out into more media and formats.
Best Practice in Assessment 1: Assess across the six levels of cognitive skills of Bloom’s Taxonomy
This best practice extends the “Design by 3” practice of assessing (1) facts and concepts; (2) simple “doing” applications; and (3) more complex “creation” projects. An easy example is to think in terms of a course in math or biology. The first level of facts and concepts requires learning core vocabulary, concepts and discovery stories; the second level is hands-on exercises with relatively simple problems; and the third level is grappling with more complex problems, even including those problems with no known answers.
Bloom’s taxonomy (1956) and the updated version by Krathwohl (2002) each have six levels of cognitive processing. One difference between the two taxonomies is that the updated taxonomy uses verbs rather than nouns to indicate the type of cognitive processing going on. A second difference is that the top level in the updated taxonomy is “creating.” As we all enjoy the processes and results of creation, this is a fitting top-level experience.
The updated taxonomy is illustrated in the pyramid figure below. (See Figure 1.). The two foundation processes, (1) remembering and (2) understanding might be compared to the assessing of facts and concepts. The middle two processes of (3) applying and (4) analyzing might be compared to the simple “doing” applications, which includes manipulating and working with content. The two top processes, (5) evaluating and (6) creating are processes involved when learners are planning and creating complex course projects. These processes are also in play when learners review the work of peers and respond with critiques or commentary.
The pyramid that names the six core cognitive processes also serves as a good reminder that learning new skills requires a series of steps; and each step involves developing links or making changes to our existing knowledge base. You might want to print a copy of this pyramid and place in your office somewhere, or on you desktop as an icon.
Bloom’s Taxonomy updated by Krathwohl, 2002. Figure 1
How can you effectively assess the range of Bloom’s taxonomy? Here are a few strategies.
Assess facts and concepts:
Assess with simple “doing” tasks
Assess with complex “creating” projects
Best Practice in Assessment 2: Assess the core concepts in your course
This best practice requires thoughtful analysis of the course content by you as you are planning your course. Learners will only learn and take away a limited amount of knowledge and skill from your course. Determining what those core concepts are and then relentlessly focusing on those core concepts from multiple perspectives is what drives student’s acquisition of core concepts. Sometimes this work has been done for you by textbook publishers and are captured in the course performance goals. Reviewing just what those core concepts are and how the course experiences and requirements assist the learners in achieving those is part of the assessment design process.
See if you can answer these three questions?
Best Practice in Assessment 3: Help students succeed on assessment tasks
This is best practice #8 from the set of best practices, Best Practices in Assessment: Top 10 Task Force Recommendations from the American Psychological Association (APA). This best practice reminds us of the value to students of (1) explicit expectations; (2) detailed instructions; and (3) samples and models of successful performance for the assessment activities. This best practice also encourages providing opportunities for practice and detailed feedback. In other words, the best assessment is ongoing, and embedded into the learning experiences with no surprises. This means rubrics, feedback with multiple reviews (self, peer and expert). We want our learners to succeed.
Classic Resources on Assessment
Here is a short set of annotated resources on assessing student learning that you may want to explore.
AAHE Assessment Forum, 9 Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning. Retrieved March 4, 2009, http://www.uky.edu/Assessment/principl.htm
APA. The Assessment CyberGuide for Learning Goals and Outcomes in the Undergraduate Psychology Major Retrieved March 4, 2009 http://www.apa.org/ed/guide_outline.html
Bloom, B. S. and Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain. Addison Wesley Publishing Company.
Forehand, M. Bloom’s Taxonomy. In Orey, M.(Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved January 2, 2010, from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Bloom%27s_Taxonomy
Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of bloom's taxonomy: An overview. Theory into Practice, 41 (4), 212-218. Retrieved on March 4 2009 from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0NQM/is_4_41/ai_94872707.
Overbaugh, R. C. & Schultz, L. (n.d.) Bloom’s Taxonomy. Retrieved March 4, 2009, from http://www.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/blooms_taxonomy.htm
Smythe, K. & Halonen, J.. Using the New Bloom's Taxonomy to Design Meaningful Learning Assessments. Retrieved March 4, 2009 http://www.apa.org/ed/new_blooms.html
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