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Challenging misconceptions of assessments

There are a number of misconceptions regarding the role of assessment in contemporary education. Unfortunately while these beliefs may shape opinions outside of education, they also have the potential to influence the attitudes and behaviours of current instructors and students.

Following are three prominent misconceptions towards assessments and ways to address them in the classroom:

  1. Assessment ≠ Evaluation
    The roles of assessment and evaluation continue to be held in conflation, particularly among students and those outside of the academy. In brief, evaluations are results-oriented while assessments are process-oriented observations of student learning. For example, an evaluation is generally a summative letter-grade or percentage assigned to performance. Assessments however, provide deeper feedback based on clear learning objectives so students may improve their knowledge, skills, and abilities.

  2. Assessment is not one-way communication
    To fully benefit from assessments, students require dialogue with their instructors. In the traditional one-way model, students hand in an assignment and receive it back with a grade and some written feedback—end of discussion.

    However, a growing number of classrooms are incorporating two-way models of communication to improve student engagement and learning. Pedagogical exercises like exam wrappers and two-stage assessments encourage students to reflect upon their performance while also providing instructors with feedback to improve their own teaching styles and assessment methods.

  3. The purpose of assignments is not to receive a grade
    Students place an overwhelming emphasis on the grade, rather than the purpose, of assignments. Looking at the grade on the front page or in an online gradebook is often the last time students will engage with an assignment, with few taking the time to read and learn from the feedback.

    Returning assignments without grades is a useful way to encourage students to reflect upon their performance and absorb the feedback. After students have had one or two days to review their performance, the final grades may be published on the learning management system or received through email from the instructor.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and marketing strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also a part-time faculty member at Centennial College and serves on the board of the Canadian Public Relations Society.

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