Develop a smart assessment strategy.

<in progress>

Vary your assessments and retrieval exercises.

Altering retrieval exercises and test formats challenges students and increases their information retention by forcing them to recall it under differing contexts. Assessments should be cumulative in content, not focusing only on recently presented material, and should assess students’ ability to use key concepts rather than memorize random facts or definitions.

Glover (1989) found that students’ long-term retention of information was better when they were given multiple exams rather than a single, large one and professors consistently reviewed and connected to concepts and skills from earlier in the course.

  • Remember that assessment is formative as well as summative when designing courses, assignments, and exams.
  • Schedule multiple, periodic assessments rather than giving a single, large exam.
  • Administer cumulative assessments in order to prevent selective forgetting.
  • Use varied formats and exercises. Uniform test formats fail to challenge students and provides you and them with a false sense of knowledge. Varying retrieval exercises challenges students to use information under varying contexts and reinforces knowledge and understanding.
  • Students also like to feel that teacher criticism is “future focused”, i.e centered on how the students can improve next time rather than a critique of everything they did wrong [1]. Providing clear timely feedback aimed to help them improve for the next assignment can often be received and followed the most.
  • Consider these suggestions for putting together assignments.
  • Share study tips and explain learning.
  • Communicate expectations and multiple strategies to approach the work.
  • Indicate that all students can meet the challenge with practice.
  • Build in low-stakes, well-structured practice on skills required for tests and assignments.
  • Give students feedback that includes recognition of your high standards and the sense that the student can meet them.

See the WWC Quick Review of a new study, “Daily Online Testing in Large Classes: Boosting College Performance While Reducing Achievement Gaps” (Pennebaker, J., Gosling, S. D., & Ferrell, J. D. (2013). PLoS One 8(11): e79774. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.007977).

Retrieval is an effective way to learn complex concepts. See this article on retrieval tests at William McEachern’s THE TEACHING ECONOMIST.

Glover, J. A. (1989). The “testing” phenomenon: Not gone but nearly forgotten. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 392-399.

McEachern, William A. “THE TEACHING ECONOMIST.” The Teaching Economist. Cengage Learning, 2008. Web. 10 June 2011.