Handbook on Excellence in Learning and Pedagogy

Course-Specific Assessment: Applying Techniques in Teaching

Where can you find help and samples on ...

student outcomes?
Click here.
pre-and post tests?
Click here.
Click here.
specific assignments?
Click here.
classroom techniques?
Click here.
Click here.
assessing yourself?
Click here.


Assessment is always rooted in good teaching practice.  Directed by the teacher, centered on the learner, assessment benefits both.  Techniques vary as much as teaching styles and learning abilities.  Many assessments are based on traditional exams and papers.  Others are not graded.  Some are set and closed, others open-ended, but all should provide useful feedback.  They should be ongoing, developing and growing, as one learns more about what works and doesn't with different students.  

All of the strategies and practices in this section should help everyone to see how assessment is really just a natural part of the flow of teaching and learning. A teacher should be comfortable with assessment practices.  If one of the specific techniques offered below doesn't appeal, then don't use it.  Add the faculty member�s expert command of the subject matter, enthusiasm for that subject matter and for communicating it, and you have the ingredients of the best teaching and learning environment among King�s College people who pride themselves on being a �teaching faculty.�   

Student-Oriented Outcomes

The best way to begin using assessment well in one�s own course or classroom is to ask first what the student should know and be able to do as a consequence of completing a particular assignment or an entire course. Take the syllabus, for example. Does the description of the course makes good sense to a student? Are objectives stated at all? Are those objectives student-oriented so that the focus is not on the teacher's performance but on the student's? Does the syllabus have a plot? The vocabulary of the syllabus reveals much about the teacher�s expectations.

For example, one might express objectives with words like �foster,� �teach,� �provide,� �encourage,� �consider,� �study,� �explore� � all of which indicate that the instructor will be responsible for giving and doing. Using Bloom�s Taxonomy of Education Objectives, on the other hand, note how objectives can be stated in terms that convey student activity and responsibility:


For more advice on how to write good Assessment Criteria, click here.   

Pre- and Post-assessments

in Core Courses comprise the first major part of the Comprehensive Assessment Program. These assessments are unified by the common goal of revealing how students think and communicate in each discipline. The number and diversity of approaches in all areas of the Core make it impractical to give many examples here, but these are available on request to the Core Curriculum Project Team Leaders. Generally, these assessments ask the student to demonstrate competence in a particular area by responding to a question or problem that is real-world or practical rather than to a question in the narrow test or academic sense.�

How, for example, will a student completing a course in Japanese culture reveal an understanding of the culture by responding to a current topic related to trade relations between Japan and the United States? How will the student completing the Critical Thinking course demonstrate an ability to reason and argue effectively when responding to controversial issues in the local press during the last few weeks of the course? How will the student in Literature and the Arts communicate aesthetic judgment when arguing for or against the display of a particular painting for a particular place and a specific audience?

These questions are assigned before the final examination, but student responses count toward the examination grade; the instructor also reviews the responses during class time. Such approaches provide good fringe benefits in giving students an experience of synthesis and a satisfying sense of closure. In this case, the instructor and the Project Team can also assess how well the course is functioning to provide the kind of liberal learning experience they have planned for students.

Master Syllabi

While student-oriented objectives and goals should appear prominently in all syllabi; "master syllabi" for all courses in the Core Curriculum present those defined by faculty project teams. 

Here, for example, are objectives and goals from the master syllabus for Core 160-165, Literature and the Arts.

(Objectives) As a consequence of taking these courses, the student will be able:
1. to identify the basic elements and use the basic vocabulary that applies to the analysis and interpretation of a work;
2. to explain the relationships of elements in a work;
3. to analyze the relationships between a work�s organization and the thought and feeling it evokes;
4. to explain relationships among literature, music and visual arts;
5. to write clearly, logically and forcefully on topics related to literature and the arts.

Here is a syllabus for Critical Thinking.   Here is a syllabus for the second Civilization Course. Here is a syllabus for a Math course. Here is a syllabus for an Accounting course.

Guidelines for Specific Assignments

Beyond the syllabus, good assessment practices can improve the way an instructor gives an assignment. Compare even the best directions one might give orally to the following written guidelines for an assignment in Core 132, Civilization II , or a  sample of a writing assignment for chemistry.

Grading pyramid assignment cover sheet/peer editing.

Here is an example of an Information Literacy Assignment for chemistry.  

Classroom Assessment Techniques

In their work on Classroom Assessment Techniques, Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross have collected a wide array of practices appropriate to a range of disciplines and teaching styles. Among favorites of the faculty here are �The One-Minute Paper� and � The Muddiest Point.�

For �The One-Minute Paper� the teacher stops class two or three minutes early and asks students to respond briefly to some variation on the following two questions:

1. �What was the most important thing you learned during this class?�

2. �What important question remains unanswered?��

�The One-Minute Paper� can also be used to assess what students have learned from a lab session, study-group meeting, field trip, homework assignment, videotape, or exam. It works well at the beginning or the end of class sessions, serving for warm-up or wrap-up.

In using �The Muddiest Point� the teacher asks students to jot down a quick response to one question:
�What was the muddiest point in __________?�

The focus of the question might be a lecture, a discussion, a homework assignment, a play or film. �The Muddiest Point� may be used even during a class meeting as a way to stimulate discussion; in this case the teacher may want students to exchange responses so that no one feels he or she has missed something everyone else has grasped.  (Technique originally developed by Frederick Mosteller, Professor of Statistics at Harvard University).

Another technique, Focused Listing asks students to list a few words to describe a topic.  For example:  "Write down 5-7 words or short phrases which describe what 'the topic' means to you."

For practice in writing and comprehension, Directed Paraphrasing .  Students are asked to sum up put material into their own words to present to another person.  The task might be worded like "In no more than 3 concise sentences, summarize what you have learned about 'the topic' in order to transmit that learning to an interested but skeptical colleague."  

Here are some exercises for teaching critical thinking.  


A convenient means to keep track of comparative student performance is through the use of rubrics.  Given to students ahead of time, it helps them both to organize their work and produce desired results.  Rubrics range from  simple checklists to detailed scales which measure how well a student's work meets specific criteria, ranging, for example, from "poor" to "excellent."  

For examples of rubrics:

Here is a rubric for an education course.  Or a rubric on a presentation.  

Here is a rubric for an Writing assignment (password required).  

Here is the grading pyramid used by CORE 110 Effective Writing.

Self Assessment and Critique

Every faculty member is encouraged to share and adapt such assessment techniques. All of the samples here, incidentally, have gone through several drafts as teachers have found through experience better ways to convey criteria to students. Here is another example to illustrate how an individual instructor�s own style as well as a different student audience can influence the way criteria are communicated and used:

For an example of a mid-semester Evaluation, click here.  

As required by most college administrations, student course evaluations at the end of the semester are a standard practice at most schools.  Can they be used profitably for assessment?  Of course.  The challenge lies in design, administration, and implementation.

From a 2005 report by the Academic and Professional Affairs Committee, some points on Student Evaluation of Teachers:  

Evaluations are of two sorts: summative (which can be used by administrators to review faculty performance) and formative (which can be used by faculty to improve their teaching practices). 
There are some worries about administrative use of the forms to the disadvantage of faculty. ...
Open-ended questions can provide more useful information for formative improvements. ... 
Students don�t usually spend much time with the forms, so the forms should be kept as short as possible. 
E. A&P�s Suggestions for Future Action by Faculty Council and the Faculty: 
Periodically change the SET forms based on continuing evaluation, reflection, and research. 
Further revise and reduce the number of bubbled questions. 
Test different types of forms and questions against one another. 
CELT should provide useful models and examples of questions that faculty can draw on for their own Part Two forms, whose use ought to be encouraged more. 
Implement various kinds of mid-semester evaluations, which research says are highly effective in improving teaching and learning. CELT again may be helpful in this effort. 
Consider various online forms of evaluation, using either the current WebCT or other professional services.

No mistake about it: starting out in these assessment approaches is hard work; nevertheless teachers, like students, learn by doing. Through practice faculty give students clearer guidelines and more specific and meaningful criteria; through practice faculty find that they spend less time correcting and evaluating, becoming more efficient and precise. Teachers find more gratification in assessing; students get more satisfaction, less confusion and uncertainty, better learning. 

Wouldn�t any teacher prefer such results to hearing a student say at handing in an assignment, �I hope this is what you want.�

URL: http://departments.kings.edu/celt/handbook/csa.html
Last Revision: 3 August 2005
This website, its author, and/or provider do not necessarily agree with and are not responsible for the information, opinion, or views of linked pages and sites.  The contents of this handbook at this server are Copyright � MMV by CELT, King's College, or the copyright holder listed at the bottom of each page.  If you use any information, please give proper credit and notify the copyright holder or this center.  
Direct comments, questions or other issues to the Director of CELT.  

This page has had
Hit Counter
hits since 9 February 2007.