Top Ten Tips for Assessing Student Performance

  1. Clearly communicate your expectations in multiple venues well ahead of the due dates for exams and assignments.
  2. Provide clear rubrics that illustrate how the work will be assessed. Provide examples of excellent, mediocre and unsatisfactory work, so standards are clear.
  3. Assess often, even if such "dip-sticking" is merely for preview or review; this helps monitor student understanding and informs the instructor's course design and pacing.
  4. Assess the process and not only the product. Certain skills related to research, media projects, writing, and scientific research are often overlooked in the assessment process as faculty focus on the final product. Assessing the process or benchmarks along the way to the final product also helps monitor the authenticity of student work.
  5. Build into the course opportunities for students to assess student work and to experience the complexities of establishing standards and criteria for evaluations, and to appreciate the differences between outstanding, average and unsatisfactory work.
  6. Use language in assessments that is specific and directed to precise elements of the student's work. Be clear, for example, about what in particular distinguishes unsatisfactory or poor performance from average or mediocre, or from outstanding or excellent work. Letter grades can easily correspond to alternative rubrics that describe in a narrative the grades' defining characteristics.
  7. Assert clear expectations regarding the authenticity of student work, be clear about what distinguishes collaborative efforts and what is cheating; offer examples of each. Guide students to resources that will help them compose proper citations. Use Turnitin not just to detect plagiarism but also to teach students about the importance of proper citation.
  8. Provide options for student expression of their knowledge and skills. Consider the purpose of the assessment and what is the targeted knowledge or skill: would the students express things more affectively in a lab or with open notes? Is the point of the assessment to evaluate their writing skills or the ability to represent abstract ideas in any way possible?
  9. Emphasize the importance of readings and preparations for lessons by administering small quizzes or queries at the onset of class, and highlight the relevance of that reading or preparation throughout the lesson.
  10. As part of a class discussion, ask students to develop their own test questions, or projects based on a specific unit of study. Engage them in conversation about what might make an appropriate instrument to measure what they want to measure, and what might be inadequate. Such conversations may help students distinguish between various types of competencies.

Additional Resources for Assessing Student Performance