Assessment in 5 easy steps

No I don’t really know how to do assessment in 5 easy steps. Just trying to think of an enticing headline. Sorry to disappoint.

But now that I have your attention….

As an English instructor teaching composition, I would give very elaborate feedback on each writing assignment. Then I was always surprised when I met with students to discuss my feedback on their papers and they didn’t really understand a lot of it. At the time, I thought it was because they hadn’t bothered reading my comments (which of course was probably true in some of the cases). But I wonder now whether providing a rubric beforehand, or maybe going through the student self-assessment process as outlined in the article “Student Self-Evaluation” by Rolheiser and Ross, would have helped them see the problems in their own writing, and thus correct them before turning the papers in.

However, the process outlined in that article would SEEM to take nearly the whole semester to complete! And I wondered “when do you have time to get to the content?” But perhaps going through the self-assessment process with students IS the content if it is making them better at recognizing what is a successful project/performance/assignment. Right? This actually seems like a more effective strategy than providing a rubric, because instead of having them read through a rubric, having them go through the self-assessment steps is having them learn how to assess their work as they are doing it.

I also read an article by Megan Oakleaf “The Information Literacy Instruction Assessment Cycle” that described a seven-stage process of assessment known as ILIAC (Information literacy Instruction Assessment Cycle). The article outlined the process with a specific example and ran through the cycle two times. It was helpful in learning how to put an assessment strategy into practice (7 not entirely easy steps). And I think this combined with the Student Self-Evaluation process might work in an online class.

Example: If I were teaching evaluation of sources, I would choose a few examples for students to evaluate. I would tell them to divide into groups of 3-4, have a synchronous online session with their group (and record it) where they discuss what kinds of things they would look at in order to evaluate the sources. They would need to come up with criteria for judging the source and explain how they made those decisions. I think they could post their findings in a forum or on a blog, and the groups could comment on/critique each other’s work. So the class would come to a shared understanding of how to evaluate a source. Then on their own, they would apply this criteria — using a rubric that was discussed with the class in advance — to another source they found on, and be graded by how well they took into account the criteria. (I realize that’s not following the Student Self-evaluation model exactly.)


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    • Susan Hylen on July 18, 2014 at 3:50 pm
    • Reply

    OK, you tricked me into reading your post, but I was glad I did. I used to teach undergraduate writing, too, and it made me think about how I would teach revision techniques to help students learn to improve their own writing (which seems a better long-term goal than getting them to interpret my comments, right?). I think the process of teaching something like writing is so big, that it seems like using student self-evaluation would take over the whole class. But you can break it down into steps and simply focus on one thing at a time, and then it doesn’t necessarily have to become the content of the class. Or at least not all of it. I did devote whole days of class to revision techniques, so it was some of the content, I guess, but not all of it.

    Actually, I still often have this feeling that I need to teach writing in all of my classes–because I expect students to be able to write, but I don’t teach them how to do it. So it’s a trade off, I think. Because how do I have time to teach them how to write? But I do really value teaching students those basic skills that will transfer to other classes and other parts of their lives, so I try to make some room for it.

    1. Hi Susan, thanks for replying and sharing your experience as a writing teacher. If I were to go back to teaching writing, I would be a very different teacher now!

      I agree that having course content that involves student self-evaluation is important — if not critical — to teaching the writing process. The great thing about teaching writing today is that students can have an audience that consists of more than the teacher (sharing their writing online in a blog or website) and I think that forces them to be more self-reflective. I mean their peers are going to see what they write too, so they have a real audience (kind of, anyway).

      I believe a lot of professors expect students to be able to write — even types of writing they have not practiced, like scholarly communications. (Isn’t that what Composition 101 is for?) I’m glad to hear that you make some room in your courses for writing, because you can never have too much of that.

  1. This is a wonderful conversation, and yes, Erin, your title drew me in! In my oral communications class, I do teach self-evaluation, but clearly-oulined stages in how to do this in the article by Rolheiser and Ross is fabulous. Susan, you hit the nail on the head when you noted that the self-evaluation process could be for individual pieces of a process. I teach academic writing for international grad students, too, and while I break down the various components of effective writing into smaller pieces, I think more deliberately providing this self-analysis process in each of those steps would be tremendously worthwhile — thanks for this conversation! I’m getting on that for my writing class!

      • Erin Mooney on July 21, 2014 at 7:33 pm
      • Reply

      Peggy thanks for these additional comments. I’m glad you found the conversation helpful and “actionable” as they say!


    • Ed Phillips on July 21, 2014 at 4:09 am
    • Reply

    Hi, Erin,

    I myself plan to use the synchronous break out group, as you and I formed a diad on Friday in your live session.

    It seems to me that in order for really deep engagement, this will be essential. I sometimes use this technique in my conventional classroom.

    that said, I think that developing serious prompt questions or theses statements for discussion is an important part of this. I sometimes discover that my prompts wind up “prompting” superficial comments from students.

    In short, I need to work on m prompts. I note your comment regarding an assignment that involved evaluation resources: ” They would need to come up with criteria for judging the source and explain how they made those decisions. ” That seems to me to be an excellent prompt!

    I think this could apply to our Diigo posts.



      • Erin Mooney on July 21, 2014 at 7:36 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks for the feedback and comments Ed. Thanks too for reminding us that prompt questions are really critical. I think we have been provided with good prompts for our forum/blog/VT postings in this class, and I see how helpful that is from a student perspective.

  2. Are you sure you weren’t a marketing major, Erin? I always love your catchy titles.

    In my experience, teaching writing has always taken assessment to a whole new level. It can require a lot more preparation and training than most subjects. Are we assessing the writing, the content, or both? There are many layers to consider.

    What I have done in the past, which was very successful for me, was to spend some time at the beginning of the year on the writing process (which included peer- and self-assessment). Learners were provided with sample writings and they would go through training on how to assess. I would model how to use the rubric and they would practice—very low stakes. We would compare how they graded with the sample.

    This is very similar to how Coursera offers peer-assessment online. Learners must pass a training module in which they learn how to evaluate their peer’s work according to a predetermined scale. They must successfully grade three sample assignments before they can be accepted to the peer-assessment process.

    Online learning poses many challenges, but I think you are on the right track. You mentioned some great processes, plus apply what you learned to an example. Don’t feel like you need to follow any one model exactly. Choose what you think works best for you and your learners and try it out. You’ll know right away if it works, or if you’ll need to modify.

    Great discussion, everyone!

      • Erin Mooney on July 21, 2014 at 7:43 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks Stephanie for these additional thoughts and for sharing the process that worked for you when teaching the writing process. Good idea to try different things and create a hybrid model if necessary that works for one’s particular course.

      I laughed about the marketing comment, as I struggle with the best ways to do outreach to undergraduates!

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