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Design your (alternative or traditional) assessment strategy

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Anecdotally, we have learned that more feedback opportunities provide grade transparency for students and creates a steady information flow in an environment in which student-teacher communication is crucial to success. 

Visit CTSI's guide for Assessing Learning to learn more about designing alternatives for graded assessments, feedback and checks for understanding, and using Rubrics to support students and faculty.

Looking for a quick introduction to designing assessment for remote education? Review the Quick Guide to Remote Assessment by E-CORE. This guide provides support for assessment planning and design for remote course delivery in engineering (although most principles apply equally to in-person delivery). It provides a starting point to help frame thinking and identify key resources as part of holistic course design. For more in-depth conversations on this topic, visit their E-CORE discussion forums.

1. Getting started - General Design Underpinnings

  1. Review the composition of final marks for Fall and Winter 2020. This might allow you to ove away from high stakes, high grade assessments (e.g. 30% midterm and 40% final exam) and provide frequent, low stakes, low grade assessment pieces (Review best practices when developing a take-home exam)
  2. Consider any technical constraints carefully. Academic integrity can be maintained with question groups and other quiz set up options, such as timed quizzes (see how to select quiz settings to maximize security). However, adding technical constraints limits flexibility for how students complete the exam; this balance is one that each professor has to decide for themselves.
  3. Aim for formative feedback throughout the term. Frequent grades can establish a productive student-teacher conversation, and students have an ongoing answer to the question, “How am I doing?” Students can have many opportunities to succeed, and there is a consistent, predictable, open evaluation structure
  4. Leverage institutionally supported tools to build your assessments (see Use the Quercus Quiz tool to support assessment submission and Use the Quercus Assignments tool to receive a Final Report, Essay, Project, or Lab)
  5. Consider the different challenges for students to participate (see the Vice Provost, Students Minimum Technology Recommendations for Remote/Online Learning)

2. Different Types of Assessments

You will want to dedicate more time to explaining instructions for assignments. This might be the first time students have completed work this way and they'll have different skill levels when it comes to using the various tools. 

  • Low vs High Stakes Assessments - Offer one or two small quizzes for each topic/unit/week of content. As you create your quizzes, consider adding small variations to the quiz questions and/or responses in randomized question groups. 
  • Flexible Assessments - Provide multiple assignments for submission. Consider allowing multiple ways for students to submit a response or reflection on a topic. For example, you could allow students to choose text responses, audio responses or video responses to the same assignment question. 
  • Formative vs Summative Assessments - See image below.

2.1. Formative vs Summative Assessments

Types of Assessments Figure from Tips of Online Assessment, CTSI.

2.2. Alternative vs Traditional Assessments

2.2.1. Ideas for alternative assessments

Face-to-face, In person assessments Online/Remote assessments When adapting, keep in mind:
Traditional final exam
Student Presentations
  • Ask students to submit multiple elements of their project (e.g. storyboard and script)
  • Students have multiple opportunities to prepare the item they are submitting rather than having to cope with the one-off nature of an in-person presentation
Portfolio, logbook, or assessment notebook
  • There might be challenges to adapting any physical work to an e-portfolio, so assigning digital work throughout the term will ensure this deliverable is achievable
Participation in seminars, discussions, class, etc.
  • Your TAs may need extra support to learn how to run online discussion activities if this isn’t part of their usual duties.
Lab work
  • Video tours/demonstrations of experiments
  • Re-use of open educational resources
  • Simulated lab work
  • data set analysis
Poster Presentations
  • Digital submission via mind map, infographic, etc.
  • Some students may never have created an infographic or mind map before and may therefore require additional support. 

This resource has been adapted by UTSC Centre for Teaching & Learning (Sarah Fedko and David Chan) from a guide by Sally Brown and Kay Sambell titled: Contingency planning: exploring rapid alternatives to face-to-face assessment

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