This week, we talked about assessment–assessing workshops, talks, classes, etc. At first I felt relieved that our discussion seemed to be on a more practical and less theoretical level than the readings; we talked about very useful summative assessment topics like the Likert scale (those radio buttons that ask how strongly you agree or disagree with a statement), short answer questions, how much space to devote to open-ended questions, etc. However, it soon became clear that these types of questions I’ve been answering (as a participant) for so long took some thought to put together on behalf of teachers, and that they have many implications. I found it interesting that we’ll need to be careful when wording questions, especially questions like “This workshop would have been better if it included ______.” We don’t want to introduce bias and send implicit messages that would influence the feedback.
The conversation about the whys of assessment was informative as well, again, because it’s something I’ve taken for granted as a student/participant. Learning how to improve the workshop for the next time is obvious; the not so obvious were getting ideas for future workshops, determining the level of understanding of students and determining whether they got something out of and weren’t just listening politely, and giving the signal that their feedback is valued and important. I also really liked the idea that assessment is an opportunity for the learner to complete the learning cycle and reflect on their experience, even if they don’t realize they’re doing that. The further education I get, the more I realize how important reflection is (in fact, I’m doing it right now by reflecting on this week’s class! And I’m finding it helpful 🙂 )
I’m looking forward to implementing formative assessment practices the next time I teach. The one formal workshop I taught last year (on creating your own ebooks from public domain materials) could have greatly benefited from some formative assessment–the feedback I received after the workshop all said that while it was a good class, it would have been better if there had been a second person to help the people who were having a much harder time and thus slowing down the others. I was frazzled during the class because of several people who had trouble simply getting their browser to work, while others were patiently waiting for the class to move on. I liked the idea of using flags or red cups on the monitors, which would have helped me avoid the abrupt stops in the lecture to go over to those who needed help. Even better would have been an entrance survey so that I would have been able to tailor my material a bit more. Live and learn!