Assessing Student Work

Assessing Student Work

The philosophy and practice of assessing student learning in higher education has given rise to a rich literature. While beyond the scope of this document, it is likely worth spending some time thinking about your assessment goals before you begin to consider how you will assess student learning and academic performance in your hybrid or fully remote course. Stepping back and thinking about your purpose in assessing student performance, and considering how the approaches you traditionally use connect back to your assessment goals, can be helpful as you consider methods of assessment and student feedback while using various instructional modalities. 

Conducting assessments and providing feedback to students in a hybrid or remote context can present hurdles. To get over them, consider a balance of design and technology. A variety of options is available to effectively assess how well students achieve learning outcomes. For instance, it is fairly easy to use low-stakes online quizzes to hold students accountable or to provide spot checks on their learning. These might be ideal to keep students on track during brief course disruptions. However, conducting high-stakes tests online can be challenging — the testing tools inside of Moodle can be limiting, online testing may place extra stress on students, and test integrity is difficult to ensure. While thinking about your course and assessment goals, you may want to consider alternate methods and tools besides exams. This is new terrain for many at Colgate — students and professors alike — and thinking creatively about assessment in your courses can open new opportunities for meeting your assessment goals. Can your online exam be tailored to grant students access to course materials and resources? Or is it possible that more frequent, lower-stakes quizzes will fill the need?

The information below — which is far from exhaustive — is intended to offer some guidance and suggestions for you to consider as you plan your hybrid or remote courses with an eye to creating assessments that meet your goals. As you read, keep in mind that in the hybrid and remote environment, understanding how students are learning (formative assessment) is often as important as knowing what students are learning (summative assessment).

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Academic Honesty

Colgate has a Code of Student Conduct as well as an Academic Honor Code. Consider discussing with your class your expectations for behavior associated with assessments and coursework. Also explain why you care about academic honesty, the values you hope your class community will share, and your rationale for various policies related to allowed and prohibited resources for various assessments.

Include in your syllabus and in your instructions for each assessment exercise clear instructions for what is and isn’t allowed. May students create shared study guides? Talk with each other about general approaches to problems? Use and/or share online resources aside from those you provide? Comment on each other’s drafts? In general, clear, explicit expectations help students understand what is expected and avoid academic honesty issues. 

Assessment design can also help promote academic honesty. Consider using low-stakes or no-stakes feedback tools (e.g., simple Moodle or Google form quizzes) for material that is fact-based and/or easy to look up online. Out-of-class, untimed instruments that require students to synthesize, evaluate, or create something while freely accessing online materials can take away some concerns associated with closed-book, timed, proctored assessments.

The Proctoring/Surveillance Question

In some fields, it is common practice to have a closed-book exam in a classroom where you can proctor the exam and control various parameters, and where students aren’t always already connected to the internet. In hybrid or fully remote courses, on the other hand, it can be challenging or impossible to monitor student access to information and/or to completely lock them out of internet access. For students, it can feel inauthentic that you are even trying: Why should they pretend there is no internet when they have to use it just to access the exam? And many of them have access to multiple connected devices.

Faculty who normally rely on in-person proctored assessments should consider three possible approaches in a hybrid or remote setting:

  1. Clearly instruct students with regard to expectations, remind them of the Honor Code and Code of Student Conduct, and trust them.
  2. Use alternative assessment approaches that are effective even with internet access and access to course materials and tools.
  3. Use surveillance software to attempt to replicate the in-person proctored test environment.

Whether and how to monitor students who are learning remotely in order to prevent academic dishonesty is something many faculty think about. As you work to build connections with your students and encourage them to connect with their world, consider the cost of demonstrating distrust via the use of software that attempts to proctor them and/or close down their internet connection; these costs may run counter to your pedagogical aims, and they may have deleterious effects on your classroom culture. In a time when surveillance and electronic monitoring are clearly alienating to many of us (our students included), carefully consider the approaches you take in the name of curtailing cheating. Many of us have serious concerns regarding the ways that surveillance affects classroom dynamics as well as the ethics of the software companies that offer proctoring services.



Some of the information on this page was inspired by and adapted from Dartmouth University’s “Teach Remotely” page, Middlebury College’s “Teach Remotely” website, and Plymouth State University’s Open CoLab, all published under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 license.