Published on 2020/03/19

Evaluating Your Assessment Plan as You Move to a Virtual Classroom

The EvoLLLution | Evaluating Your Assessment Plan as You Move to a Virtual Classroom
Clarity is critical when designing a virtual course, which more educators find themselves having to learn how to do as the COVID-19 virus keeps students at home.

If you are an instructor and you are faced with moving your course online due to COVID-19, you are not alone. Given the rapid shift we are experiencing, many may wonder how to use assessment more effectively to drive student learning. There are ample resources online that allow you to deliver assessments virtually. Here, I want to talk about your planning of the assessment and some common assessment facets to consider.

What do your students need to know and be able to do?  

Through the disruptions of school closures and the scramble to move to the virtual classroom, you may need to streamline your curriculum. Take a quick inventory of your course objectives or outcomes. Do you have a valid list of course outcomes? Do they encompass everything your student needs to know and be able to do for their future? Does your list of course outcomes include too much? What is absolutely critical? Ultimately, you may need to re-evaluate what you offer to your students and focus on the most crucial course outcomes. Make sure to weigh both importance and difficulty when determining what to present for the remainder of the term. These outcomes either drive the design of  individual assessments and/or culminate in a final assessment at the end of the term.

What are the most authentic ways to assess your course outcomes? 

This may sound obvious to most educators, but authentic assessment is important. Align your course outcomes with your intended assessment for those outcomes. Does it help the student authentically demonstrate mastery? In a time of frustration for us all, an authentic assessment of mastery may be much more valuable than a 100-question final.

Formative assessment is your friend. 

There may be some course objectives that are necessary for your students to demonstrate the course outcomes. Make sure to build in small formative assessments that include providing feedback to students. Formative assessments help drive learning forward and may allow you to experiment with the many online assessment programs on the market and fine-tune point number two about authenticity.

Reliability and validity are critical. 

If you want to give a student the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of a concept, particularly with a multiple-choice assessment, remember  to include at least three assessment items per course outcome in order to establish reliability, which is required for a valid assessment.  If you search your subject area and the term OER, you may be able to find OER assessment items for your multiple-choice assessments. Another engaging formative activity for students is to have them draft assessment questions that you can review and bank for the final exam.

Avoid bias, sensitivity, and other sources of fairness risks in your assessments. 

Whether you are using an objectively scored assessment or a performance assessment, it is possible your assessment may contain some level of bias or other “construct irrelevant variance”. That means that you are measuring things other than the course outcome, and it may put some students at an unfair advantage. In order to avoid this, make sure your performance assessment contains a clear and concise rubric . If you use a multiple-choice assessment, review your items to ensure clarity and conciseness (think about your English Language Learners), that they do not require additional background knowledge irrelevant to the course (e.g.the number of cards in a standard card deck), and language that may be sensitive to a specific demographic group.

There are many options for assessment delivery, but often lies a paucity of discussion on how to drive quality and fairness. Your institution may have specialists in curriculum design, assessment and evaluation. It would be a great idea to engage with them if you would like more assistance with moving your student assessment to a virtual platform.

Editor’s note: This piece was submitted on March 13, 2020. 

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