What We Did: Feb 17 (Third Class; Assessment, Part 1)

Week 3 — 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

Week three marked the first peer-driven class session, with Janey Flanagan, Maria Greene, and Irene Morrison-Moncure tackling the complex topic of assessment. The session included nuanced discussions of formative vs. summative assessment and ways to evaluate higher-order thinking. Read all about it after the jump.

  • Brief preliminary survey to help our external evaluators conduct an assessment of the course (5 min)
  • Mapping? Everyone on? How is it going with your students?  Any other problems?  Any questions from the first two classes? Reminder about privacy settings
  • Tool for video annotation—discuss possible usefulness for video-based assignments and for our own footage
  • Cathy skyped into Danica’s class—should she and Bill divide up and make an appearance, Skype or in person, to every class?
  • Our blog that puts the whole picture together: hastac.org and Michael’s work
  • May 22 secure as our final event day. Any other scheduling questions?
  • Before Group 1 begins on assessment, please do what every group must: each give us an “elevator speech” (2 minutes, the speech to a stranger in an elevator) about your research, why it is important, why you want to teach it to others
    • The three presenters (Janey Flanagan, Maria Greene, Irene Morrison-Moncure) gave a brief synopsis of their research and teaching
  • Presentation on assessment
    • Assess -> etymologically refers to “sitting with”
    • Summative vs. formative assessment – only formative improves learning; summative can inform students about gaps in understanding. Both can help faculty make adjustments in teaching.
    • Have students think of potential exam questions, then workshop them together
    • Peer review of rough rough drafts
    • Using weekly quizzes as both summative and formative—graded, but lead toward improved learning
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy clarification: related to our class discussion, there was a change in 2001 from Blooms 1956 model where creation/synthesis was moved to the top level and evaluation/judgement was moved to the second tier.  Additionally, the 2001 focuses on action verbs. Another model teachers frequently use is  reference is Webb Depth of Understanding.  This website provides more detail: http://fuelgreatminds.com/webbs-depth-knowledge-vs-blooms-taxonomy/


  • How do we assess students at higher orders of thinking? Not just knowledge recall, but analysis, synthesis, evaluation, creation
  • A combination of assessments that measure different levels on Blooms taxonomy can tell us more about student learning than simply testing for knowledge recall.
  • Example: Maria’s syllabus–Defining Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) and Evaluation Measures
    Course Student Learning Outcomes (Students will be able to…) Measurements (means of assessment for student learning outcomes listed in first column)
    1.   Learn the concepts and principles of chemistry. 1. Examinations, Homework Assignments and Laboratory Experiments
    2.   Recognize the importance of and develop a skill in problem solving. 2. Examinations, Homework Assignments and Laboratory Experiment
    3.  Relate chemistry to other areas of science. 3. Examinations, Homework Assignments and Laboratory Experiments
    4.   Unify the diverse topics of chemistry. 4. Homework Assignments and Laboratory Experiments

Lots of small-stakes assessment can be a good strategy to keep students engaged on a weekly basis and provide regular checks for understanding. These can be formative as well as summative, as they can inform the professor about student’s progress and learning.  Large stakes assessments in the absence of knowledge checks can be anxiety inducing for students.

Make sure before we end to do a Think Pair Share or another interactive method if you already have one planned: 3 ways that you can/will use these formative assessment methods in your class this week so you can report back next week in our formative feedback to Group 1

1 – Assignments for Next 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: http://rubistar.4teachers.org/index.php
  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 Next Week

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

  • Activity 1: Midterm Evaluation – this is an effective way to collect student feedback because students are used to and comfortable taking evaluative surveys already such as student information surveys on the first day and 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 want 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 be used to direct 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 (Transitional Writing prompts can be found here). A useful activity for brainstorming or “brain-dumping” before or after curricular units or specific activities.

Preparation for Week 4:

Please bring your syllabus.

We will discuss:

1- What do you do with the information from formative and summative assessments?

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?

Reading/Preparation for Week 3:

Please review the linked videos, articles, and websites for next Tuesday’s (2/17) discussion and activities. In addition, please bring a copy of your course syllabus as we will be referring to them for our assessment activities.

Why Assessment?
The Legitimacy of Assessment – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Videos on Formative versus Summative Assessment

On Bloom’s Taxonomy and Summative Assessment
Bloom’s taxonomy​ writing objectives
Bloom’s taxonomy cognitive levels


Video: Strategies for Formative Assessment

Article: Yorke on Formative assessment in higher education




  1. I found the topic of assessment to be a fascinating one. Coming from a science background, and presently teaching Anatomy of the Speech Mechanism at Lehman College, so much of my personal experience with assessment was purely summative. Objective science…..right or wrong….not much discussion and certainly no group projects or peer learning. So this is all crazy new for me….and quite challenging to completely rethink what I’ve thought and been taught for three decades.

    I thought Maria, Janey, and Irene did a fantastic job getting us focused on a topic that can be terribly complex. With careful consideration of all that was presented, I developed a plan for how my class might participate in and experience the wonderful world of assessment. For details, read my blog, “Anatomy’s Assessment of Assessment”!

  2. By the way, I definitely think that Bill and/or Cathy should visit every class….at least by Skype! My students would be so psyched about that as they feel little connection to the university at large, the central administration, and the Graduate Center.

    It was also so amazing that Cathy responded to a post by my student Jhanil. I’m sure that it made her week!

  3. Richard, I am delighted to Skype into your class. If your students post, I think Bill and I and the Futures Initiative Fellows will work to respond whenever we can. Truly. The impressive thing is that Jhanil had the courage to contribute. That is big.

    Maria, Janey, and Irene: I am giving a talk in Mexico City on March 18 for 900 educators and policy makers worldwide who are fighting back against the global trend towards summative high stakes testing, and what Lani Guinier calls “the tyranny of the meritocracy.” I’m specifically addressing teachers, principles, school leaders, and university educators who are traumatized by Mexico’s new adoption of this global trend. I’ll be going back in April for another follow-up workshop of 150 top leaders who have the power of putting some of the ideas I will lead the group in on April 18 [APOLOGIES TO EVERYONE: I HAVE TO MISS 2 OF OUR CLASSES; GRATITUDE FOR BILL FOR SO GRACIOUSLY BEING WILLING TO GO IT ALONE THOSE DAYS.]

    What I am doing with my audience is not only explaining the history and the current data around assessment, but building in three experiments with index cards to show how even the most hierarchical lecture can be turned into an interactive, engaged learning experience. We’ll begin with a 10-second question and hand-raising (I will ask them to jot on a card “what year was this photo taken?” about a photo of a lecture hall–it’s usually a spread from 1970 to the present on people’s cards when I ask for a show of hands and that shows the problem: the world has changed, higher education not so much); I will do a think-pair-share exercise. AND–thank you very much–they will fill out an Exit Ticket with the one question they want us to follow up on in the afternoon workshop. The translater/interviewer and I will organize the workshop around those exit ticket questions. I will do this from now on. Thank you.

    QUESTION for Maria, Janey,and Irene: can you review the other techniques you taught us? Or make us review them? I need that to remember the others. I profited so much from your wonderful class. Thank you all.

  4. I think it would be wonderful if we could all revisit our topics and thread them together throughout the semester! It seems to me this is the ideal way to implement innovative pedagogy (or any pedagogy).

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