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Best Practices | Improving Student Learning with Assessment

When developing a course, the instructor has numerous decisions to make regarding the course design, objectives, learning activities, and assessments. Different types of assessments support various teaching and learning needs,and starting this month we will be offering a series of workshops covering diagnostic, formative, summative, and authentic assessments. This article gives a high-level synopsis of each of these assessment types, and the upcoming workshops will explain the pedagogical value of these assessments, demonstrate methods of implementing these assessments using Blackboard, and offer options for providing effective assessment feedback and remediation learning activities to improve students’ learning. Below is a table that lists each assessment type, its purpose, examples, and classic implementation timeframes for delivering these assessments.

Assessment Type Purpose Examples Classic Implementation
Diagnostics Determine a student’s prior knowledge and provide remediation activities and additional learning-support resources. Quiz worth no or minimal points
Learning style inventory
Journal entry describing KSAs
Discussion Board post sharing learning preferences and studying tips.
Prior to Instruction
Formative Provide a student direction and feedback with her/his learning. Quiz worth minimal points
Reflection journal entry or paper
Draft documents – outlines, concept maps, etc.
Throughout Learning Process
Summative Measures a student’s performance by using a formal evaluation tool, such as rubric. Quiz worth high point value
Quiz/writing assignment combo
Application exercises, case studies, group projects
Throughout Learning Process
Authentic Measures a student’s performance as s/he applies newly-acquired knowledge and engages high-order thinking skills to create an original work or approach to problem-solving using a formal evaluation tools, such as a rubric. Patient Assessment
Performance Analysis
Nutrition and Dietetic Consulting
Throughout Learning Process

The first online workshop, Improving Student Learning with Diagnostic Assessments, provides an overview of designing courses using Dee Fink’s Integrated Course Design methodology in terms of analyzing a course’s situational factors to determine the students’ prior knowledge and the knowledge they need related to the course content. A method of assessing this knowledge is to give the students a diagnostic assessment that can help identify their knowledge gaps and provide them resources to increase their knowledge. These types of assessments can be implemented using traditional approaches, such as delivering a diagnostic quiz or learning style inventory or through other on-line approaches, such as having the students submit journal entries describing their course-related knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes or submit discussion posts sharing their learning style preferences, study tools and strategies. By the students completing these diagnostic assessment activities, the instructor can share remedial and additional learning resources to improve the students’ learning.


To learn more about these types of assessments and providing feedback to improve student learning, contact CIRT and join us for the upcoming workshops focusing on this topic.