Monday, December 28, 2015

Planning Assessments

I’m going to break down the way in which I devise formative assessments to determine whether my students are meeting a learning objective I have defined. The course I will be teaching is college-level History of Christianity and the students are prison inmates in a community ministry program.

The objective is: Identify the relevant characteristics of a new independent group (Protestant denomination) that formed as a result of decisive differences with the mother church. By formative assessment, I mean bite-sized opportunities to grasp how well the students understand the material we’re covering while we’re covering it.

The formative assessments I will use are:
  • Assess an ‘opening thoughts’ writing assignment: at the start of the class, the students will write on a card, what they found interesting or relevant in the reading. I will collect the cards and use them as the basis for a brief discussion of several of the points raised, asking the contributor to elaborate, and then another student to suggest what they’d add or revise about what’s been said. This will help me tune the lesson to areas that actually matter to these students, who could use affirmation and anything that would bolster their motivation.
  • Ask questions of students throughout the open-book discussion: I’ll have a series of discussion points which I’ll introduce as questions to both engage students and help me gauge the level of understanding in the room.
  • Assess an in-class ‘very short essay’ writing assignment: realistically, my evaluation wouldn’t happen until after the class. This exercise, early in the term, is designed to help me understand where each student is in terms of writing and analytical capability, in advance of the first major writing assignment.
  • Revisit the key topics with a series of quick questions at the end of class: for those topics that will appear later on a summative assessment (an exam), I’ll ask for definitions or a quick explanation of their significance. This will help the students to grasp what “big idea” really matter in this course.

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