What We Did: Feb 24 (Fourth Class; Assessment, Part 2)

Week 4 — Group 1: Assessment

Co-authors for this post:
Janey Flanagan (BMCC) Urban Ed, eLearning
Maria Greene (BMCC) Urban Ed, Chemistry
Irene Morrison-Moncure (Hunter) Classics

In week four, we continued the discussion of assessment that Janey Flanagan, Maria Greene, and Irene Morrison-Moncure began last week. Students reported back after trying different formative assessment exercises with their undergraduates. Most reported amazing, rewarding results; find out more after the jump.

First, we covered a few administrative and housekeeping items, including planning for next week’s visit to Chancellor J.B. Milliken. The class discussed topics they’d like to discuss, including the following:

  • What is the Chancellor’s vision for “Digital CUNY”?
  • Discuss our class’s adoption of CBOX and how it networks our students and campuses
  • Differences in big state systems vs. CUNY’s urban system
  • Current climate in higher ed, particularly challenges in public sector. Funding, adjunct labor, remediation, changing student population, etc. How are CUNY’s challenges unique (or do they)?
  • Challenges/opportunities in higher ed more broadly
  • Innovation: What would he like to see, what does he see that he likes, and how can we help?
  • How could he imagine these kinds of efforts multiplying and connecting across the system?
  • Public scholarship, access to technology for students

We also discussed our upcoming visit to New York Public Library’s Mapping Division and Labs team. We’ll be meeting in the main with the curator of the Maps Division, Matt Knutzen, and members of the Labs team who have developed NYPL’s map applications.

Next, we discussed how everyone is using CBOX with their students so far. With nearly 200 members, 18 sites, and 16 groups, the network is going strong. We discussed challenges and opportunities.

  • Challenge is getting students to sign up – give them incentives to participate, or try spending one session in a computer lab
  • Free absence or dropped quiz score, for instance
  • Modify the grading scale to make this part of their grade
  • Or post all readings to the site
  • Transfer low-stakes in-class writing assignments to the site
  • Excitement about the project
  • Emphasize digital literacy
  • Sharing their work as part of building the map gives an automatic 100% on a quiz. Quiz itself then becomes self-assessment, formative not summative

A few other preliminary items:

  • Final event prep: How many students do you have? Send Katina your rosters (with email addresses) if you want her to send invites directly
    • Total number of undergraduate students: 368
  • Ways the library can help you (Shawn)
    • Sign up for office hours (Shawn will send around a sheet)
    • Remember that regular office hours are also available on Tuesdays, or by appointment (contact Shawn or Katina to arrange)
  • Looking ahead to Week 6 (March 10, room 9206):  
    • Open Session, public, live-streamed session on Peer and Student Led Pedagogy
    • Assignments? The group will email the class in advance.
    • Feel free to invite undergraduate students, professors, GC and non GC faculty, advisors/department chairs
    • Livestream:


The rest of the class period was then guided by Group 1: Assessment. Students were asked to prepare for the session by bringing their class’s syllabus and completing the assignments given last week.


  1. What do you do with the information from formative and summative assessments?
    • Can be complicated to meet all of the needs of all learners who may be at different skill levels in the same class; there is a lot of grey area in constitutes a right or wrong answer on an assessment.
    • Lev Vygotsky Zone of Proximal Development – what a student can do on their own vs. what the student can do with supports – “scaffolding” (Jerome Bruner). Scaffolding can be in the form of professor student or student/student. Ideally it is best to keep students learning at the very edge of their skill level.  High performing students may benefit from mentoring other students.  Creative activities such as think/pair/share may be a good strategy to move everyone to new creative levels of thinking and to introduce higher level problems and challenges.
    • Exit cards (students can identify what they are missing or want to know more about) can provide a good format for grouping students – consider grouping them by categories in order to have students help one another or discuss areas of further interest.
    • Rubrics – Still leave a lot of grey area with regard to assessment.  They can provide a guide and some criteria, but there is still subjectivity involved.  Student created rubrics let students have a say their own evaluation criteria.
  2. Debrief on Assignment one and two–please be prepared to discuss what you implemented and how it worked.
  3. Discussion on strategies for addressing student learning when they are at different levels after you’ve identified strengths and weaknesses through assessment?

1 – Assignments for this week

Online discussion or other (small stake assessment) if online discussion is not possible

  1. Please use sample rubrics for online discussions and design one of your own for a small stakes assessment.  Rubrics can also be formative for your teaching. They give you a tool to examine your grading decisions.  They also provide students with expectations on how assignment will be graded.
  2. Templates for rubrics are located at Rubistar:
  3. If you choose not to implement a rubric, please explain to the class why you don’t think they are a good tool for assessment in your opinion.  What’s an alternative approach? 

2 – Second assignment for this week

Please choose one of these formative assessment activities and apply them to your class in the upcoming week. Please bring your students’ work/answers for next class.

    • Activity 1: Midterm Evaluation (an example of what I use in my own class) – this is an effective way to collect student feedback since students are likely already used to and comfortable taking evaluative surveys — from student information surveys on the first day to course evaluations on the last day of class. Anonymity helps promote honesty but you may wish to have student names attached to their answers if you wish to reach out to specific students as a follow-up.
      • Add your own course objectives and place them in the course objectives section of the mid-term. Have students rate their level of comfort with each task.
      • It is often useful to ask students what is the ONE thing they are most worried about moving forward in the course.
    • Activity 2: Exit Passes – Writing on an index card, students should answer short prompts and turn their cards into instructor before they can leave for the day.
      • Examples of quick, short prompts: What is one question you have after today’s lesson, one thing you took away from today’s lesson, one connection you made to something we learned last class, etc).
      • Student answers can then be used to guide your lesson plan for the following class.
    • Activity 3: Writing activity  – A transitional activity so you’ll want to insert this 5-minute free-writing activity as a checkpoint for understanding or review and reflection between units during your class time.
      • Examples of Transitional Writing prompts can be found here.
      • This is a useful activity for brainstorming or “brain-dumping” before or after curricular units or specific activities or to prepare for an upcoming summative assessment like an essay or exam.

Review of Assignment 2: How to make use of your formative assessments

Begin by discussing some of the logistics of implementing these activities and helping each other troubleshoot any issues that may have arisen.

  • Midterm Assessment – who chose this activity? (1-2 students)
  1. How did you explain this survey to your students? Did you have it anonymous? When in your class did you hand it out? How long did it take?
  2. What were some of the scaled questions you asked?
  3. What were some other questions asked?
  • Maria shared the assessment she had her students do
  • See Richard’s blog post about the experience:
  • When fear is reduced, students learn much better
  • Students were also really happy to be asked about what was working for them
  • Many students rated their study habits as being less effective than they probably are
  • Maria has her students approach chemistry like they would a battle or a football game. Requires information but also strategy, practice, training
  • At community colleges especially, building good study habits is a critical step
  • Several classes reported wanting to do more group work, hands-on work, video-based work


  • Transitional Writing – who chose this activity? (2-3 students)
  1. Which prompt did you choose? When in class did you have them write? For how long? How did you explain this activity/keep it low-risk?
  • Prompts included translating a text into a different format; identifying and writing about a text’s central question
  • Hilarie combined two of the beginning of class writing prompts that Irene gave us, and was really happy with her students’ openness and lyricality as they wrote about the Alexie/Bechdel project that had, the previous session, exploded out of what was meant to be just a short lesson. She will keep y’all posted, and you’ll hopefully see more soon on her course site!


  • Exit passes – who chose this activity? (majority)
  1. How did you explain this activity to your students?
  2. What questions did you have them respond to?
  3. How long did you give them to write and how long did it take/how easy was it to pass out/collect the cards?
  • Ryan  – Used Exit Passes – Unit on space configurations, asked to hand card on the way out, and it was the answer to a short answer; Also used Survey as an exit pass
  • Evan – Used Exit Passes to say what he would like more of in the class. Students wanted more hands-on work


  • Michelle used the Rubric as a supplemental evaluation tool

On your computer or a sheet of paper, look through your students’ work and answer these two sets of questions:

  1. What are my students telling me they understand?
  2. What are my students telling me they are confused about?
  3. What is the most fundamental concept or objective which students appear to need more time to review? Is this a few students or a majority of students?

Now consider your answers to the above questions.

  1. Think of the concepts or objectives your students say they understand. How did you teach these topics? What do you think was more/most effective about these pedagogies?
  2. Think about the concepts or objectives your students say they are confused about. Why do you think these topics were harder to grasp? Think back on how you taught these topics—how might you find a way to review them in a more memorable or effective manner? How can you integrate a review of these topics into upcoming lessons?
  3. What are some short term (the very next class) and long term (over several classes, sometime before the midterm/next major assignment) formative assessments or activities that you may be able to implement to help your students with the fundamental topics/objectives they need more review on? Consider factors such a restraints of time, materials, space, etc.

Discuss answers. Troubleshoot and share ideas.




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