What is? Assessment
Too often, faculty equate this idea of assessment with a test or with grading and they're not equivalent. Tests are one way of revealing what students know or able to do, but there are multiple other assessment approaches that can also yield similar information.
You can grade as part of an assessment approach, but it is not required there is no mandate that says, "Thou must grade all student work." So you want to keep that in mind.
Types of Assessment
There are a couple of different types of assessment and maybe you've heard this language. I want to unpack these different types. You could think about assessment exists on several different continuums, or is it continua? I'm not sure actually. But anyway we can we can talk about different types.
You may have heard the terms formative assessment and summative assessment and and these are really critical actually. One of the high impact practices is offering regular feedback to students and this is often achieved through a formative approach to assessment. So understanding these different terms can be helpful here.
The way to think about formative assessment is that it's in progress. It takes place during learning, so while students are still learning a particular, some concepts or it may be a set of skills.
As opposed to summative assessment where we we think about that as an after learning situation. So after students were supposed to have learned it. That's when summative assessment takes place.
Now of course this all gets a little conflated because not all students are learning at the same pace. And we definitely have to acknowledge that, but the key distinction between formative and summative is about when that assessment is taking place. If it's taking place during the learning process we can we generally consider formative and when it happens after learning is supposed to have taken taken place we generally call that summative.
High Stakes Vs. Low Stakes Vs. No Stakes
Another way to think about assessment is on the continuum of high stakes to low stakes, and we might even use the term no stakes as well. This is essentially, how much of a consequence is there for for the for the learners with respect to their performance on the assessment. So, if you assign points in your course for various activities, something that's worth just a handful of points or maybe even no points would be considered you know low stakes or no stakes. But something that's worth a lot, it's a large percentage of your overall grade or has a significant impact, for example, we think about standardized tests as being a really high stakes right? That's a high stakes assessment, and so the high stakes, low stakes continuum is really this idea of how much of a consequence is it for students based on whether they do really well or do really poorly. What's the outcome of that performance?
Direct and Indirect
And another type of assessment to think about is this idea of direct and indirect, and so this idea of direct is that you're measuring the learning directly as opposed to not measuring directly, which is indirect. A straightforward example of an indirect is if we just ask students to rate their understanding of a particular concept. In that case it's indirect because we didn't actually ask them to demonstrate it and we didn't measure it directly. We measured it indirectly by asking them to rate their perceived confidence or competence around a set of knowledge or a particular set of skills.
We can talk about assessments a lot of different ways. These terms are often used when talking about assessment. For example, you can have a formative, low stakes, indirect assessment.
About the Author
Dr. Jeff Boyer, is the NDSU director of assessment. Boyer’s areas of expertise include designing assignments to demonstrate student learning, implementing formative and summative assessment techniques, aligning learning outcomes with assessment methods and measures, and aligning course-level assessment approaches with program assessment. Boyer’s work is focused on advancing a culture of learning improvement at NDSU.