Last years, my assessments in my Revolutions Honors course were monotonous, and very traditional. There were some papers, and one presentation assignment, but I gave lots of tests, and they were a combination of multiple choice and essays. The essays were OK, because they were good practice for the students, and I think writing is important. The multiple choice were less satisfying. I did them for some understandable reasons (giving them practice with multiple choice) as well as some less noble reasons (easier to grade--though of course harder to write). But all along I felt like I wasn't satisfied. So this year I'm looking for change things a bit.
But there are certain conditions any collection of assessments has to meet:
- It has be manageable in terms of workload, both for me and the students
- It has to be driven by clear goals in terms of skills and content
- It has to give the students adequate practice for them to master skills and content
- It has to give student adequate feedback to master skills and content
- It should include adequate formative assessments along the way
How can I structure my assessments over the course of the year so they meet those conditions?
One thing is to alternate types of assessments. For example, I want more presentation-type assessments this year, so I could alternate those with writing assignments.
A second possibility is to use shorter assessment, graded or un-graded, in order to help students master parts of a larger skill before putting all together. Those could of course be in-class activities, which helps reduce out-of-class workload and student stress.
A third thing to remember is peer-assessment. Peer assessment is like a multiplier effect: students get more feedback without additional work being imposed on the teacher and they learn to critique their own skills better by critiquing someone else's.
A fourth think to keep in mind is on-line assessment. These are sometimes automatically graded, which helps with workload and gives students rapid feedback; however, that only works for simple, traditional types of questions, such as fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice. However, it is a way for students to get multiple choice practice, and when I've done this in the past, students have found them helpful.
So with those as reminders, what shall I do?
Unit one: Perhaps a Genuine Fake Essay, which focuses on the barebones writing skills of thesis, organization, and topic sentence. We would do one in class as a formative assessment and practice, and then do one as a graded assessment. Students would be required to take on-line multiple choice quizzes. I don't want them to be included in the grade, but I can require them, I think.
Unit two: Here they would move up to a full essay or paper. This is a long, two-part unit, actually, so two assessments are possible. We've traditionally done a paper at the end, so maybe a short presentation assignment combined with some research in the middle. That way, over the course of the unit, students would be exposure to writing, presentation, and research in their assessments.
Unit three: This is the unit with the big French Revolution research paper, so they get both writing and research skills. It doesn't leave time for much else, aside from some sort of relatively short objective assessment.
So that's a start.