The 3 Fs of Assessment
Fs are usually bad in assessment, but these are good Fs. The three Fs are Fast, Frequent and Fair. This encapsulates the cornerstone of my assessment system. I do my best to provide frequent opportunities to check on student progress, and carefully choose easy to identify indicators of success that can be assessed quickly.
Early on in my teaching career, I remember spending hours and hours writing comments on student work, only to watch in horror as students simply glanced at them and tossed them aside. Occasionally I will write comments on student work, but if I am going to put significant time into that, then I plan an activity where students will to do something specific with those comments.
I rely heavily on my curriculum to provide opportunities to assess student progress. As students complete activities in class, I mark them down as completed for each student. This method of tracking completion is a powerful tool that provides a very real indicator as to where students are in a quick, fair and unarguable way.
Is the class going on a field trip? Are they working on collaborative exercises in class? Were the activities and exercises valuable for student learning? (I sure hope so). Give points to the students that went and participated in those activities, and completed the exercises. That is fast and fair. Let’s do it frequently.
Meeting Students Where They Are
Evaluating where students are at the start is critical. It sounds obvious, but I have seen many instructors assume too much. I have fallen victim to that pitfall myself, more than once. There are many ways, both with formal and informal assessment techniques to evaluate how ready your students are for the curriculum you thought you were prepared to deliver. I find simply asking them to be incredibly effective.
It can help if you have a big picture model for the program / situation in which you teach. At one institution where I teach, I think of the bachelors program in rough thirds. For the first third of the program, I am helping students build confidence; the second third is primarily about developing skills; the final third is mostly about developing professionalism. Of course all three of these are happening at all points, all the time. However the needs of most students, most the time, guide me to create activities and assess them with these broad categories in mind.
Understanding these broad categories helps me adjust the focus of my assessment system appropriately. In the first two thirds of the program the focus is more on quantitative assessment techniques, where as I shift more towards qualitative assessment techniques for courses in the final third.
Of course, this may change a bit depending on where students are at the beginning of a course and how they progress through the course. In the next post in the series, we will take a detailed look at the tools in the evaluation toolbox.
Check out the other posts in this series
Introduction and Setting the Stage
Part 2 < You are here
The 3 F’s of Assessment & Meeting Students Where They Are
The Tools for Assessment
Micro and Macro Approaches
The Heart of My Assessment System
Gaming the System and Fair != Same
Real Deadlines & Extra Credit