Assess more, grade less
26 April 2023
You will likely be familiar with the terms “summative assessment” and “formative assessment”. There are a few tech tools available to create formative assessments -- or what we’ll call “knowledge checks".
While summative assessments are an assessment of knowledge (think: final exam), formative assessments are assessments for knowledge. Perhaps you’ve never considered using assessment as a tool to create knowledge, so before we get into The How, let’s briefly understand The Why.
Providing more assessments allows students to better gauge their progress throughout the semester. With frequent feedback from the instructor, students have the opportunity to apply the feedback and improve their performance. Particularly helpful are ungraded and/or low-stakes knowledge checks immediately following learning material. Frequent and formative low-stakes knowledge checks help students self-assess their understanding of content, and coupled with immediate and relevant feedback, result in one of the key utilities for learning as revealed by cognitive scientists (Boettcher and Conrad, 2010; Lahey, 2014; Simonson et al., 2015).
To make one point crystal clear: by more assessment, we do not mean more grading. Remember, frequent formative assessment often works best when it is ungraded and purely for self-assessment. In general: assess more, grade less.
Now on to The How. There are three primary tools at our disposal: the Quiz activity in Akoraka | Learn, H5P, and Panopto.
Quizzes in Akoraka | Learn
Most of us currently use the Quiz activity in Akoraka | Learn for midterm tests and final exams. We’d encourage less of that use, and more use for knowledge checks. This option differentiates itself from the other two options (H5P and Panopto) because you are providing the knowledge check separately from the learning material. For example, students complete the Module 1 readings, and then answer a few short questions you’ve created using the Quiz activity. This “Module 1 Knowledge Check” as it could be called, could be a mix of multiple choice and/or short answer questions. Critically, whatever the question type, students are receiving immediate feedback upon submission. Multiple choice questions are not only marked as correct/incorrect, but students are provided with explanations about why their answer is correct/incorrect – this is feedback pre-programmed into the quiz by you. Short answer questions cannot be auto-graded, but you can provide feedback in the form of a model answer and have students self-assess their proximity to your expert answer.
H5P and Panopto allow you to combine the knowledge check with the content – they become an integrated piece of learning material. Check out the examples below:
H5P Example (skip ahead to minute 24)
This final example isn’t using any specific technology but is a powerful example of formative assessments encouraging student-directed learning while also teaching students how to think like an expert.