This is a guest post by Angela White
It’s funny how people still believe that teachers don’t work on weekends, during spring breaks and over the summer. On a good day, it’s a joke that makes you laugh. But after a long, sleepless night spent reading student essays and grading their assignments, it feels less entertaining and more cruel.
Because a teacher’s job is no laughing matter.
And here’s a thing – when it comes to student assessment, a good teacher knows better than to distribute a dull old test at every module end. Retention of knowledge requires unceasing motivation, and motivation stems from continuous engagement. Education-wise, innovation is always imperative.
This means that creating student assignments is a process of ideation in its own right. The format and type should not only be suitable to the material that’s being assessed and to the level of student knowledge but should also offer a new and stimulating challenge that will keep the students engaged.
Contrary to the popular belief, this is very time-consuming.
Luckily, there are a number of ways to cut that time to half.
1. Develop a Student Assessment Template
A long journey feels less arduous when you’re equipped with an itinerary. In business, every project needs a good plan to keep it within budget and predetermined time frame. The same principle can be applied to student assessments, thus helping your streamline the creation process from start to end.
Consider it a personal template that you’ll be able to use for every next assignment. In only a few steps, it outlines the entire process by helping you define objectives, work out logistics, and establish the evaluation criteria. In reality, it’s nothing more than a list of student assessment do’s and don’ts:
Define a clear purpose of the assignment – what are the skills that the assignment needs to measure?
Identify the level of student knowledge – will the assignment be too frustrating or too unchallenging?
Pinpoint the assignment specifics – what is the suitable format for the goal you must accomplish?
Work out the logistics – what length is the most appropriate, and how much time does it require?
Set the evaluation criteria – what element(s) of the assignment should you grade?
Link the assignment to the course – what difference will the course make in your students’ lives?
For instance, if the purpose of the assignment is to evaluate critical thinking, then students’ current level of knowledge should be challenged. The appropriate format would be an essay or a test with open-ended questions, while the deadline would be more flexible than usual. You would grade original thoughts, selection power, analysis prowess, convincing inference and problem-solving skills.
2. Keep the Assignments Short and Sweet
The assessment of critical thinking is surprisingly flexible in terms of formats and lengths, as these skills require both analysis and synthesis. For example, a critical analysis of the 730-page long Ulysses can be narrowed down to a single page, thus showcasing the students’ ability to fathom the essence.
For both students and teachers, this is a neat little exercise with far-reaching results. When it comes to critical thinking, a 200-word long commentary paper has the same assessment power as a lengthy essay. It focuses either on one element that a student cannot master without mastering the entire unit first, or requires a complex subject matter to be narrowed down to a poignant and crucial point.
This type of student assessment flirts with the idea that if you cannot explain it simply, you don’t understand it well. Short assignments keep the students focused and their thoughts organized, while simultaneously cutting down the time needed for creating and grading finished assignments to half.
3. Go for Quizzes Instead of Tests
Speaking of student motivation, we cannot but notice how the word quiz by itself sounds less intimidating than the word test. Typically used as the official assessment method, tests evoke anxiety and compel students to think about their upcoming assignments as something rigorous and dreadful.
Quizzes, on the other hand, remind them of a fun activity that tests their knowledge in a stress-free environment. Thanks to the newest quiz maker tools, they have the same assessment power as traditional tests. Not only do they boost student engagement, but they can also be created in no time.
Besides, this format doesn’t have to be limited to simple Q&As. Peer quizzes are a brilliant self-assessment exercise since students must write questions by themselves, come up with appropriate answers, and cross-examine their peers’ responses. What we have here is a three-in-one assignment.
4. Conduct Impromptu Assessments
Every class is a good occasion to assess your students’ current knowledge. Student evaluation doesn’t always have to be formal; in fact, some students perform much better when they don’t realize that they’re being evaluated. This is why quizzes are better than tests, especially if your students are young.
With some creativity, any class activity can be turned into an impromptu assessment.
Silent students can use drawings instead of words to show understanding of a concept, while talkative students can engage in a simulated talk show and discuss the important points of any lesson. Although something you can come up with in the heat of the moment, these techniques are still very successful.
5. Always Keep the Debate Going
Alternatively, you can always change your assessment approach.
The school will still need you to run regular official tests, of course, but you can make formal evaluation much easier if you stay on top of your students’ performance in between two tests. And if the school does allow it, avoid lengthy and complicated assignments altogether and introduce quizzes and impromptu assessment techniques instead. They provide a much better insight into student progress.
Oh, and use technology wherever you can. A reliable quiz builder can make the creation process really fast, and the evaluation itself very enjoyable for students. It also allows you to personalize learning, thus keeping the students engaged and motivated all the time, and the assessment more successful.
Angela White is an ed-tech enthusiast with a passion for writing for the consumer market in the areas of product research and marketing using quizzes and surveys. Having a knack for writing and an editorial mindset, she is an expert researcher at ProProfs: a brand that’s known for creating online assessments tool.