Assessment

Assessment

Use the questions and strategies below to guide your approach to remote assessment, especially during the unusual circumstances. Even if you will not teach remotely, the suggestions can guide you to more meaningful approaches to learning about your students' learning.

  • What is the purpose of the assessment in your remote course? In a time of crisis, think about your priorities and your students’ priorities. Where does learning in your course fit on that list, and how will you adjust assessment to reflect the new reality?
  • What are the simplest ways that students can demonstrate their learning? Think about the alignment between your assessment strategy and the students’ learning. Have they had opportunities to practice the task you expect of them? Is it possible that at this point in the semester, students have already achieved the course's learning objectives?
  • How will students receive feedback about their learning? ​​​​​Clear and structured expectations about when students receive feedback, in what form, and what they should do with that feedback are especially important in online environments. Also keep in mind that many things, for you and your students, will take longer than they would ordinarily. Teaching assistants in a remote course may need more specific guidance for their duties, too.
  • In what ways might the assessments be inequitable, especially considering this change is in response to a crisis? Think about students who are in different time zones, students who have inconsistent internet access, students who are ill or caring for ill relatives, students with accessibility accommodations that need to be adapted for online environments, and so forth. Having multiple and flexible ways for students to demonstrate their learning is ideal.

Strategies

In these unusual circumstances, give yourself permission to make changes that address the figurative and literal limited bandwidth that you and your students have at this time.

1. Shift priority or emphasis of learning objectives.
  • How does the new environment fundamentally change the skills, knowledge, and values that students can learn in your course? This consideration is especially relevant for community-engaged, experiential, and laboratory/studio learning.
2. Break up, spread out, or rescale assignments or projects.
  • Rather than one large final exam, consider smaller and lower stakes assignments.
  • Avoiding high stakes exams and projects with lots of moving parts can reduce stress during uncertain times and create smaller chunks of grading for you.
  • Make due dates consistent and predictable (e.g., due at the same time every Friday). 
3. Drop assignments.
  • Your capacity to grade and students’ capacity to produce work are both likely decreased. Make strategic choices about which assignments truly capture student learning during this disruption.
4. Consider new assessment formats and alternatives for feedback.
  • Student workloads will shift considerably to writing. Are there other ways that you could assess their learning, such as asking students to produce a podcast or other digital media.
  • The time it takes to provide students feedback will likely be higher than it was before the move to online instruction. Consider alternative ways to provide feedback such as peer feedback, audio feedback, or generalized group feedback (i.e., your overall impressions from all students’ collective work). Make use of Collab/Canvas tools like the comments box to minimize time downloading and reopening files.
5. Alter grading schemes.
  • Be transparent with your expectations and how you are responding to the crisis at hand. Considering making more assignments for peer review or rubric-based grading, or alternative approaches like contract or specifications grading.
  • Use Collab/Canvas tools like iRubric to quickly provide grades and feedback on student assignments.
  • Make sure students understand the University’s updated grading policies.

​​​​​Specific Techniques

The following techniques include examples of technology to support pedagogical choices. There are many technologies supported by UVA that are not included for brevity.

Exams and quizzes | Group projects | Written work
Performances and presentations | Physical portfolios and objects

Exams and quizzes

Operate as if these are open-book and for the sake of fairness, encourage all of your students to use their books and notes. Bear in mind that students will be completing their work in distracted and nonideal environments; thus, they will probably require more time. Some questions you may consider: Does the assessment align with what students have experienced in the course so far? Do they know what to expect? Is the exam accessible to all students in terms of formatting and timing? 

  • Crafting questions.
    • Question variety. Use a variety of question types to assess different types of learning
    • Randomization (general recommendations and specific tools within Collab). For multiple choice questions, randomize answer choices. Randomize the ordering of all questions. Use a set of questions to create different assessment versions that test similar ideas. For quantitative questions, Collab enables you to enter a range of possible values to randomly generate unique questions for each student.
    • Wording. Reword questions to prevent students from performing an internet search on the text (e.g. change names, subject matter, and other small details). You can also insert words as image files to prevent copy/paste.
  • Approaches to exams.
    • Frequency and timing. Consider smaller stakes and more frequent assessments over high stakes. It is unlikely that all students are available to take an exam at exactly the same time. Instead, consider a broad window (e.g. 24 hours) in which they can start the exam/quiz.
    • Student experience. Provide clear guidelines for what students can expect during the assessments especially technology limitations (e.g., Collab quizzes are not designed for mobile devices) and general format (e.g, provide a practice test). Have students review these guidelines for taking online tests in Collab. Collab support will also help you review your settings to ensure that your time windows, permissions, and other settings are as you intended.
    • Collaboration. Consider allowing students to work together on assessments after completing an individual assessment. Collaboration can be motivating and reassuring, and a great opportunity for students to learn from each other. Monitor group formation to prevent students from being left out.
    • Consider new strategies for grading. Can some questions have different point values/weights than in a traditional setting? What is the purpose of the grades, and how does it connect to student learning? 
      • Tend to how grading changes affect TAs.
      • If you are grading open-ended questions in a large enrollment course, consider a tool like Gradescope. It enables facile grading and feedback for open-ended and calculation questions for large enrollment courses. Contact A&S LDT or your school contact for more information.
  • Collab support for Test and Quizzes

Group projects

  • Support group dynamics.
    • Support them from afar with check-ins and instructions for how to use technology in a collaboration.
    • For more strategies related to supporting groups in an online environment, see Collaborative Learning Techniques by Barkley, Major, and Cross.
  • Modify expectations. Transparently adjust rubrics or keep them flexible as students adapt to their remote circumstances (e.g. consider how to address if one student can’t attend synchronous meetings because of a timezone difference).

Written work

  • Workload. Consider that many students may have more writing with the shift to online. As an instructor, you may also have more written work to assess, so streamlining your assignments and their assessment process will benefit both you and your students. Approaches such as check-lists of criteria, peer-evaluation, and self-evaluation can do double duty in terms of allowing students to benchmark their progress, and giving you insight into their learning. 

Performances and presentations

  • Synchronous experiences. Use Zoom for synchronous scene work, debates, rehearsals, and presentations (screens can be shared), etc. 
  • Recordings. If students have the right technology available, guide them to record their presentations to be watched by all students in the class on their own time. Use synchronous Zoom meetings or forum discussions to reflect.
  • Evaluating technology. If a learning objective could shift to incorporate use of technology for a particular skill (e.g., self-taping, learning a design software), value the use of technology in your evaluation, and be sure to introduce and teach the skill thoroughly beforehand. Otherwise, avoid evaluating students based on fluency with educational technology.
  • Application. Performances and presentations are all about making knowledge. Is there a way for your students to find a creative form to present their knowledge to the world during this specific time? Can they move a PowerPoint presentation to a chalk-on-the-sidewalk lesson for all of their neighbors? Can they host an Instagram Live or record a podcast?

Physical portfolios and objects

  • Remote showcasing of objects/portfolio. Is it possible for the object/portfolio to be filmed, scanned, or photographed while the student presents? Provide transparent instructions and rubrics. 
  • Relocating objects. Is it possible to mail the object? If so, take care in packaging and documenting the object.
  • “Using” objects at a distance. If an assessment requires students to interact with physical materials that they cannot access (but the instructor can), can they provide evidence of learning by directing the instructor to complete specific steps over zoom - the steps the students would themselves take if they had access to the materials?
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