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Assessment in educational settings is commonly divided into two categories: summative or formative. Summative assessment is our classic term paper or cummulative exam, where we determine how well students have come to understand the content of the course or the skills we are asking them to acquire. Formative assessment is feedback on a draft paper or an in-class quiz. These quizzes can have different functions, both geared towards allow self-reflection on the instructional process.
Formative assessments can be used by teachers and faculty to determine if they are striking the "right note" for the students. By reflecting on what the students achieved compared to the goals of the lessons, a teacher can determine if they can move on to new content or need to return to cover some material again.
Formative assessment can also be used by students to determine if they understand well enough to meet their goals for the class. By reflecting on what they got right and what they got wrong, or reflecting on the red marks (or blue or purple) on the draft of the paper, they can determine if they need to seek extra help, or spend more effort on homework. Many philosophers and psychologists of education argue that learning to do this reflection is key to students development as self-motivated learners (Brewer 2004; Erhlinger et al. 2008; Hernandez 2012 provide some recent research into the use and efficacy of formative assessments in adult and young adult learners).
Generally speaking, formative assessment in higher education is more often provided through feedback on draft papers and other written work, which is difficult to achieve in large lecture settings. Yet we want students to learn problem solving, which requires practice and feedback. There are diverse ways to accomplish this, but without an army of graduate teaching assistants (and with a serious need for a good nights sleep most nights), hand-corrected papers were not a possibility for my 100-student non-majors classes.
Instead, I took advantage of the quiz function offered in both Blackboard and Moodle teaching platforms. These quizzes included questions that ran the gamut from straight factual recall to analysis of text and problem solving. Links below lead to pages that discuss the structure of the quiz questions and the taxonomy of the questions in the quiz pool.
|Structuring multiple-choice questions for problem-solving|
who take on-line formative quizzes show greater
Brewer, C. 2004. BioScience 54:1034-1039.Ehrlinger et al. 2008. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 105:98-121
Hernandez, R. 2012. Higher Education 64:489-502