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Tips on Designing Assessments

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The success of a course hinges not only on compelling content creation but also on the meticulous design of assessments. Contrary to conventional wisdom, beginning with assessments before crafting instructional materials proves to be a strategic move. By aligning assessments with course goals, learner profiles, and established learning objectives, instructors can lay the foundation for a coherent and impactful eLearning experience.

The process begins with a thorough analysis of course goals and learner characteristics, providing essential insights for shaping assessments. The alignment between learning objectives and assessment items is crucial to ensure a seamless connection between instructional elements. The correlation between specified objectives and assessment items is exemplified by the principle that if an objective demands analysis, the corresponding assessment should evaluate the learner's ability to analyze. This alignment ensures a targeted approach to evaluating knowledge, attitude, and skills.

Assessment, seen as the process of collecting and analyzing information to measure individual learner performance, demands careful consideration. Designers must ensure that assessments align with objectives, accurately measure desired goals, cater to the learners' needs, serve as instructional tools, remain ongoing and integrated into instruction, and involve a shared responsibility among learners, instructors, and peers. The incorporation of both formative and summative assessments further enriches the evaluation process.

Understanding the distinctions between formative and summative assessments is crucial. Formative assessments, integral to tracking learner progress throughout a course, offer continuous feedback for improvement. Unlike summative assessments, which evaluate comprehension at the course's end, formative assessments focus on diagnosing areas that require further attention. Mapped to enabling objectives, formative assessments contribute to the ongoing learning process, providing valuable insights into knowledge gained and skills developed.

Summative assessments, on the other hand, determine whether learners have achieved the desired level of proficiency. Graded and reflected in the final course grade, summative assessments offer a holistic overview of the learner's performance. Clear differentiation between objectives and skills is emphasized, urging the assessment of skills in contexts closely resembling real-world scenarios.

The blog further delves into effective assessment strategies, emphasizing the importance of clear, well-researched test questions and tasks. The article encourages the development of grading rubrics, offering a detailed characterization of student behaviors. The creation of rubrics for assessing discussion postings is explored, with a focus on goal-oriented discussions, collaboration, and the grading of collaborative outcomes.

The crucial role of assessment design is highlighted throughout the blog, emphasizing the need to consider instructional goals and objectives. Starting with a clear understanding of the desired end results for the entire course and specific units ensures a purposeful design process. In conclusion, the blog underscores the significance of a holistic and thoughtful approach to assessment design, ultimately contributing to the success of eLearning courses by fostering meaningful learning experiences for both educators and learners.





Hello, and welcome to the eLearning and Instructional Design for Beginners podcast, where new and aspiring instructional designers start, grow, and advance their careers in instructional design and online learning development. I'm your host, Crystal Harper. I'm a former school teacher who transitioned to instructional design, all while working full-time as a single mom. Would you like to become a successful instructional designer without the burden of earning another degree? Well then let's get started.

Now it may seem counterintuitive to design the assessments of a course before you begin creating the content, but it's actually very helpful to determine how you're going to test the learner's knowledge, attitude, and skills about the subject when you're creating the instructional materials.

It's very important to consider the goals of the course as you're designing the assessments. Utilize the information that was gathered in your goal analysis and learner analysis and following your written learning objectives. Using the information gathered from your goal analysis and learner analysis and following your written learning objectives, you will then create the assessments.

As you write out these questions, it's important to keep in mind what you learned about the learners in the previous step. The nature of the learning objectives determines how the learner achievement of those objectives is measured. Determining the learner assessments at this point in the process will help ensure congruence between these two essential instructional elements.

There should also be a direct correlation between specified objectives and the items used to assess the achievement of those objectives. For example, if an objective states that the learner should be able to analyze a case, the corresponding assessment should evaluate learner's ability to analyze the case.

Assessment is the process of collecting and analyzing information used to measure an individual learner's learning and performance. When determining learner assessment methods, designers should make sure that they are aligned with the objectives, capable of accurately measuring the desired goals or outcomes, appropriate for the learners, viewed as an instructional tool, ongoing and a natural part of instruction, a shared responsibility between the learner, instructor, and peers, and include both formative and summative assessments.

You'll learn about different types of assessment and then the differences between formative assessments and summative assessments. The mastermind will provide you everything that you need to develop effective assessments for your course. Keep in mind that the quality of your assessments will depend on the quality of your learning objectives, which in turn depends on the quality of your goal analysis and goal statement.

After reviewing your written assessments, it's important at this point to evaluate the overall design and revise work if needed for overall quality and congruence. Formative assessments help you track learner progress throughout the duration of a course and offers your learners feedback to use to improve their e-learning experience.

You're able to identify areas that might need improvement and pinpoint strengths during the e-learning course. Formative assessment is one of the most beneficial assessment strategies because it focuses on what still needs to be learned instead of what learners should have already mastered. Unlike summative assessments that are used at the end of an e-learning course to assess the comprehension of the learner, formative assessments are diagnostic in nature and used throughout the course.

Formative assessments should be mapped to the enabling objectives of an e-learning course. By doing so, the student is learning the concepts set out in the planning of that module or course. When the student successfully completes the assessment, it provides both the learner and trainer with feedback showing knowledge they have gained, skills developed, and any areas that need to be further developed in that learning objective.

Each successful demonstration of learning builds towards the overall learning for that student. The purpose of summative assessments is to determine whether or not a learner has achieved the desired level of proficiency or given learning objectives in a module or at the end of the e-learning course.

Summative assessments provide learners with how well they are doing in contrast to formative assessments which identify specific areas that are needing to be improved during the course. Summative assessments are graded and are reflected in the final course grade. It's important to distinguish between objectives and skills.

Objectives are broad descriptions of what will be covered in a course or a portion of a course. Whenever possible, you should assess skills in a context as close to the performance setting as possible. Having them answer a multiple-choice question won't be nearly as effective as giving them a physical and authentic task.

Also, be sure to be thorough when you research students performance context. In addition, make sure your test questions and tasks are written clearly with correct punctuation and grammar. Avoid the temptation to trick students by intentionally writing complicated or misleading questions. You need to focus on testing them on achieving the learning goal, not on how good they are at answering trick questions.

An effective approach is to develop grading rubrics that assess specific discussion behaviors. While grading is the most common form of assessing students’ learning, rubric scoring provides for a more finely detailed characterization of students’ behaviors than simply grading. Rubrics typically consist of a set of categories, features or aspects of student work that are of interest, or hierarchical levels of performance within each category.

Despite the effectiveness of rubrics in assessing students’ learning, developing an adequate rubric for a given course discussion requires time and often multiple iterations of revision. The first consideration in developing a discussion grading rubric is to establish the goal or goals of the discussion.

For example, we use online discussions to help students learn argumentation techniques, whereas others might be more interested in students coming to a consensus on a topic. Clearly, different assessment rubrics would be needed to encourage each. Thus, the second step in developing a grading rubric is to identify characteristics of messages that would support the established goal.

For example, a discussion rubric aimed at encouraging successful argument. Might identify such things as clear statement of position, identification of points of agreement and disagreement. with previous postings, logical arguments, and so on as characteristics to be evaluated. The third and final step in rubric creation involves then taking each characteristic and specifying differing levels of performance for each and assigning scores for these.

Another way of going about creating a rubric for assessing discussion postings is to identify the goal of the discussion as knowledge construction. That is, view discussion as central to content learning. Encourage student contributions to the discussion that were accurate, original, relevant, and that add to content learning.

Instead of creating a rubric that separately specifies differing performance levels for each of these characteristics, however, group them together and specify differing performance levels for that group. Another way to provoke collaboration is to develop rubrics that reward collaboration. Rubrics that reward collaboration must focus on discussion responses.

This might, for example, only credit responses that cite and either extend or refute previous postings. Another possibility is to assess postings based on the discussion threads they engender, making thread initiators responsible for sustaining collaborative discussions. Finally, an important means for assessing and encouraging collaborative discussion is to have some sort of outcome or product of discussion which is graded.

These kinds of options are again more applicable to small groups because it is difficult to collaborate on a project in a large group. Group members might be asked to collaborate on a discussion summary or to develop collaboratively a case analysis or a solution to a problem. Individuals within the group could then be graded on their individual contributions using rubrics as discussed above and on the group project.

It's very important to consider the goals of the instruction as you design your assessment. During the analysis phase, you created performance objectives, or what the students would do to demonstrate that they learned the content. Now you can use these performance objectives to help you create effective assessments.

As you write out these questions or tasks, remember to keep in mind what you learned about students during the analysis phase. As with many projects, you should begin the design process with the end state in mind. Begin by determining what your end results should be. You should identify objectives for the entire course as well as specific objectives for each module or unit.

If a specific goal or outcome can't be identified for a given section, then it may be better to combine or split that section into adjacent or similar sections. Likewise, you should be able to identify specific skills or learning outcomes for both the entire course as well as each unit or section.


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