Tests: Assessment for learning

With the start of semester less than four weeks away now, I’ve been writing my exam papers, test papers, assignments etc for the A-semester papers that I teach. If I don’t get them done before the semester starts, it will be a real rush job to do them later on. Since the key to good teaching is in setting appropriate assessment items, they need to be done with careful thought.

Last year I trialled a couple of tests that students could talk in. I felt they were successful – they did their job in being a learning exercise in addition to being a test, and the majority of the students agreed with me, judging from the comments on the appraisal forms. This year I’m going to take it a step further, and have the students mark their own tests as well, straight afterwards. This brings in another successful strategy, which is immediate feedback to the students. Rather than them getting a mark sometime afterwards, they get to review their work straight away and identify where they did well and where they need improvement. I will, of course, read through their scripts and look at how they marked themselves – a student giving themselves ten out of ten for an empty script isn’t going to wash. In fact, it may help identify those students who think they are performing better than they are, and who would normally be in for  a shock when they get their final exam marks back at the end of semester.

The goal is to get a single assessment exercise (called a ‘test’ – but a better name is probably just ‘assessment’) that combines summative assessment, formative assessment, assessment for learning, and immediate feedback. Can they all work together? I’ll find out soon enough.

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