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Embedded Assessment in Spring Term Courses

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Embedded Assessment in
Spring Term Courses
A PRESENTATION BY
MARC CONNER, STEVE DESJARDINS, AND
WHOEVER ELSE WANTS TO CHIME IN . . .
16 DECEMBER 2009
Assessment in the Spring Term
п‚— How does it differ from the long terms? One added
component: the primary learning outcome of the
Spring Term
п‚— Also: we are required as an institution to submit
detailed assessment results to SACS each year,
because the Spring Term is our Quality
Enhancement Plan
п‚— That all sounds cumbersome and un-fun. пЃЊ
Spring Term Assessment
п‚— The Primary Learning Outcome: to enhance critical
and/or creative thinking
п‚— Really the very essence of the Liberal Arts goal
п‚— Each course will do this in different ways, specific to
one’s own discipline
п‚— We only need to ask ourselves: In what ways does
my course enhance my students’ critical thinking
skills?
“Critical Thinking” and your own learning
outcomes
 Define “critical thinking” for your specific discipline
by connecting it to your department’s established
learning objectives
п‚— Hence, measuring how well you attain one or more
of your departmental learning objectives measures
how well your course is enhancing your students’
critical thinking—it’s really that simple. 
“Embedded Assessment”
 What is it? The easiest—and most effective—means
for measuring what you are doing in the classroom.
п‚— You take something you are already doing, and turn
it into a tool of measurement.
п‚— Thus, without changing your pedagogy or teaching
practice, and without adding some monstrous and
cumbersome assessment tool, you accomplish your
assessment work. Everyone is happy. пЃЉ пЃЉ
How �bout some concrete examples?
п‚— Enter Monsieur Desjardins . . . Example from
chemistry, the Natural Sciences
п‚— Followed by Sir Conner . . . Example from English,
the Humanities
Assessing a Spring Term Course in the
Department of English: Spring Term in Ireland
п‚— An English department learning objective:
Students studying English will seek out further
knowledge about literary works, authors, and/or
contexts
п‚— In THIS course (derives from this objective):
Students will demonstrate an increase in their
knowledge of the history, geography, and politics
of Ireland
The hierarchy of assessment
W&L
Mission
Statement
Departmental
Learning
Objectives
Specific Learning
Objective for MY course
How will I assess this? (I)
1.
* Administer initial knowledge quiz at start of
winter term orientation class: 20 questions that
reflect the sorts of things I want them to know by
the end of their immersion in Irish culture
* at the end of the spring term experience, students
take this quiz again, demonstrating (one hopes) a
dramatic gain in knowledge of Irish culture.
(administered through the SAKAI program, for
easy access in Ireland)
How will I assess this? (II)
2. Students write a one-paragraph response to a
question about Irish culture during the winter term
orientation course; they then write a similar oneparagraph response (to a different but comparable
question) at the end of the spring term experience,
and the two writings compared will demonstrate a
significant increase in their understanding of Irish
cultural and political life. (Example: analysis of the
Celtic Cross)
Assessing a Spring Term Course in the
Department of English
п‚— Another English department learning objective:
Students studying English will write clear,
persuasive analytical essays driven by arguments
about texts
п‚— In THIS course (derives from this objective):
Students will improve their ability to analyze,
interpret, and understand modern Irish literature
How will I assess this?
п‚— During the winter term orientation class, students
will write a “5-minute paper” on a selected text from
a major Irish modernist writer, whom we will study
in greater detail during the course
п‚— Near the end of the spring term experience, students
will write another “5-minute paper” on a major Irish
modernist writer; the two papers compared will
demonstrate a significant gain in the students’ ability
to analyze, understand, and articulate the major
meanings of these writings.
Further steps of assessment
These writings may be submitted to an outside evaluator for
comparison and assessment. The assessment rubric will include
the following questions:
 [How well – scale] Does the student identify several
significant ideas, themes, and issues in the selected writing?
п‚— Does the student articulate clearly the important elements in
the selected writing?
п‚— Does the student demonstrate clear understanding of the
selection’s meaning and importance?
 Does the student provide analysis of the selection’s technical
elements (style, narrative voice, metrical structure, voice,
descriptive passage, etc.)?
п‚— Does the student demonstrate a broader understanding of the
cultural context out of which the writing emerges and upon
which it comments?
Evaluating my assessment work
п‚— Did I assess everything I did in this course?
Not by the longest shot.
п‚— Did I assess the most important things I did in this
course?
No way.
п‚— Did my assessment add a significant amount to my
work in this course?
Not in the least.
п‚— Was my assessment work productive and useful?
Yep.
Other thoughts on assessment
 You can do much more than what I’ve indicated
п‚— Assessment can be very, very useful to us as
teachers—in fact, we do it all the time, but not always
in a self-conscious, quantified, or productive manner
 Don’t let assessment get in the way of your teaching;
rather, find ways to do what you do in the classroom
and use it in your assessment work. THAT is
“course-embedded assessment.”
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