Today’s performance and metric-driven society pushes students to memorize for the test. The questions “Will this be on the exam?” and “Will this be graded?” have been heard by every professor. This mentality inhibits students’ ability to strive for a deep level of understanding and perceive these connections. Instead, students often simply memorize where the ‘dots’ are and neglect to consider how the material impacts their view of and relationship with the world – the ‘picture’.
My goal for grades is that they assess students’ attainment of the learning objectives I set out for them. Grades should inform students of their progress, and help inform me of my effectiveness (see more on my effectiveness as a teacher here). Grades also serve as a strong motivator for students. They implicitly believe that the grade weights of different aspect of the course reflect their relative importance, so I keep that in mind when setting up my course rubrics.
I desire to help my students reach higher level thinking. I believe different methods of assessment are best used for different purposes. For each of the following, I describe my thoughts. The links will take you to more discussion as well as some examples:
- Quizzes usually test the most basic level of knowledge. Therefore, I mainly use them to ensure that students do work required for group discussions – when their preparedness (or lack thereof) impacts the rest of the class.
- Exams should not include twist and difficulties that students have not seen before. Those should be left for problem sets (see below). I strive to have my exams test concepts, and serve mainly as a knowledge check point for my students.
- Problem Sets: The (relatively) untimed and open book nature of problem sets gives students the opportunity to really grapple with the material. I put a lot of effort to ensure that my problem sets take students on a journey of that leads to understanding, and are not rote exercises of regurgitation.
- Essays: [forthcoming]
- Other: [forthcoming]