Canada Association of Tourism Employees

When Setbacks Are Alternatives For Change

Re-evaluation and innovation in assessment

Every time we face a challenge or a setback, it means making a change – and change involves the acts of reassessment and innovation. In education, we faced an abrupt interruption and re-evaluation as a result, as educators were forced to toss lesson plans (some of which are decades old) out the window, adapt new lesson plans, and use new tools (zoom, anyone?).

The only thing that consistently grounded educators was pedagogical best practices – which were more important than ever as they became the guiding principles of innovation. And these principles became increasingly important in practice as students and teachers learned and taught outside of the classroom under great pressure. For example, feedback loops became the primary means of communication when there was no face-to-face interaction. Assessment also changed when faculty and students processed assignments and assessments asynchronously.

This interface – where teachers can see what students have learned and where students get feedback on what to do next – has been a major challenge in designing distance learning. But it was also a transformative hub that determines the future of valuation today.

So what were the challenges, what are the ideal principles behind assessments, and how can educators accomplish authentic assessments?

1. Provide timely, actionable, and specific feedback

Formative feedback that is timely, actionable, and specific, says John Hattie (Visible Learning), leads students to better learning outcomes. Quality feedback can accelerate and improve student learning outcomes. And feedback is more important in online learning environments where teachers are not there to see if a student is struggling or losing interest. According to studies, “online learning removes some of the information channels available in a traditional classroom, leaving the teacher to rely more on channels such as assessment of learning (Timms, 2017, p. 327).”

We rarely question the principle of timely, actionable, and specific feedback that is tailored to the student. Of course, we should, just as we should be eating a whole meal instead of reaching for a box of processed foods. But the reality of formative feedback – whether in person or online – can feel impossible when a lecturer has to grade a batch of essays or hundreds of exams in a large-scale introductory course.

Enter an assessment and grading software that has helped teachers provide feedback and grade assignments faster over the past year. Switching to online grading also removes the hard copy variable and allows students to get feedback faster instead of waiting for the next class session.

2. Offer a variety of assessment formats

Class sizes and instructor workloads (not to mention the logistics of online testing) also have a big impact on the exam formats offered by instructors. Because of this, multiple choice exams have become popular. “Given the class size, the teaching load and a variety of other academic assignments, many teachers feel that multiple-choice tests are the only viable option,” said Maryellen Weimer, explaining the pros and cons of multiple-choice exams for the Faculty examines focus.

Multiple choice is a time-efficient way to evaluate a wider range of concepts in less time and has its advantages (e.g. lack of bias, faster grading, wider evaluation range). But when offered along with a variety of exam formats, educators can gain insight into different components of student learning. For example, short and long answer questions, as well as essays that test higher-order thinking and a deeper understanding of concepts. A variety of assessment formats also encompass different learning styles and can more accurately measure student learning.

Consider offering a supplementary question with a short answer about ratings, or use a rating tool to make it easier to offer different rating options and faster grading. Teachers recently switched to online assessment tools and got creative with Zoom presentations that took into account different learning styles while assessing different levels of learning.

3. Offer frequent, low-stakes reviews

Frequent low-stakes assessments provide students with multiple points of intervention and scaffolding throughout their educational journey. According to Scott Warnock, frequent low-stakes exams create a dialogue between teacher and student, create trust with higher chances of success, and increase student motivation (2013). By gaining insight into student learning long before summative assessments, teachers and students can accurately measure their progress and improve learning outcomes.

These low stakes assessments include class discussions, short quizzes, and journals. It may be tempting to base a student’s course grade on unit tests or final exams, but it’s important to support the whole student learning process and build trust in the process.

One of the things that occurred during distance learning was that many teachers were taking exams with high dedication because they understood that extra stress was not productive, let alone the logistics associated with an accurate summative assessment. According to government technology [1], who reported on colleges dropping SAT and ACT requirements, “The question that needs to be asked is whether educators at all levels should fully reconsider their assessment strategies. Moving from traditional, easy-to-grade multiple choice tests to ones that demonstrate their mastery of the content in a more nuanced way is not an easy transition, ”added:“ It is [the pandemic] offers educators unprecedented opportunities to rethink our old ways, which can lead to significant changes in student assessments. And that can be very good. “

4. Maintain integrity

While academic misconduct affects accurate assessment, it can also affect factors such as exam design and grading errors. Designing exams that test what students should have learned and designing exams that are not too difficult or too easy promotes authentic, accurate, and fair assessment.

Reducing bias is also critical; Name-blind grading and consistent rubrics also help ensure fairness and consistency in the assessment.

Distance learning has increased students’ ability to find quick solutions – the proximity to additional resources such as test banks and electronic devices on the Internet makes misbehavior even more appealing to stressed students. According to the Wall Street Journal [2], “A year of distance learning has sparked an outbreak of fraud among high school students, from elementary school to college. With many students being isolated at home over the past year and having a variety of online services available to them, academic dishonesty has never been easier. “Pandemic is on the decline.” While many solutions include better assessment design to prevent wrongdoing other solutions proctoring and plagiarism detection software.

5. Perform an item analysis to gain insight into student learning

Finally, teacher-to-student feedback is important: “When teachers receive feedback on their impact, the students are the greatest beneficiaries,” says John Hattie (Visible Learning Interview). In other words, when teachers gain the students’ perspective, it makes the learning visible and offers teachers action.

While assessments assess student learning, they also provide insight into student learning gaps and provide action for educators. What do students know and what not, and what can educators do about it? Was there a question everyone got wrong and why? It is important to do an item analysis and look closely at the pattern of student responses to ratings for future instructions and ratings. In doing so, many of the above are upheld, including scoring with integrity.

Setbacks are an opportunity – and the 2020 COVID disruption has forced educators everywhere to rethink and reinvent traditional assessment and grading practices. As education evolves, it is gratifying to see that assessment becomes an enriching knowledge exchange for teachers and students.


[1] COVID-19, student reviews and distance learning

[2] Cheating at school is easier than ever – and it’s rampant

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