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Starting the Year: Transforming Assessment into Learning for Students and Educators

Christine Lee
Christine Lee
Content Manager






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You’ve offered and completed student assessments. You’ve ensured a variety of assessments that test different components of learning and include a diverse range of learning styles. You’ve upheld academic integrity throughout, by instilling a culture of academic integrity within your classroom and facilitating students with explicit instruction. In sum, you’ve offered accurate assessments with integrity.

Now what?

Let’s take a look at the information gained from accurate assessments.

For teachers:

  • Student learning insights and any knowledge gaps
  • Exam design efficacy
  • Teaching efficacy
  • Academic integrity

For students:

  • Feedback to bolster student learning gaps
  • Encouragement and validation on what students have done well
  • Next steps so that students feel seen and are mitigated from misconduct

There is an amazing amount of data and insights exchanged within this intersection. And it’s important to note that assessment is not an endpoint but a junction within the student learning journey. So, after your students have completed assessments, what can educators do to transform assessment into learning?

Educators offer students timely, actionable, and specific feedback throughout the educational journey. In asynchronous learning situations, students ought to have access to real-time feedback that helps facilitate their learning, whether it be writing, problem-solving, or researching concepts. And feedback after an assessment ought to be centered around student workflows so that not only do exams test what is taught, but timely feedback loops nurture student growth.

Summative assessments serve the purpose of evaluating student learning, most commonly at the end of a course, unit, or in the form of standardized tests. In many of these cases, like standardized testing and final exams, feedback is nonexistent or inconvenient for furthering student learning. Measurement of student learning takes the form of a course grade or score, originally developed for the purpose of communicating across institutions--in short, summative assessments are not student-centered, but assessments like midterm exams can be accompanied by feedback and become formative.

At the same time, item analysis can be useful for instructors to gain insights into teaching efficacy as well as exam design. Thus, summative assessments needn’t be void of learning and can still be useful for future student cohorts.

So, what can educators do to apply the data from quality assessment towards student learning and curriculum development?

Item analysis is useful for all parties involved--particularly in the realm of formative assessment where adjustments in teaching curriculum and exam design can have immediate and positive impacts on student learning outcomes.

If, for instance, students across the board struggled on a particular question or topic in an assessment, then there is an opportunity for the instructor to circle back to students and address this particular gap in learning. Likewise, this scenario presents the instructor an opportunity to examine the question itself and perhaps clarify the exam question. In doing so, assessment and subsequent item analysis can bolster student learning and help students feel seen, which contributes to a sense of belonging. A sense of belonging helps mitigate academic misconduct because a low sense of belonging results in delinquent behaviors, such as cheating.

Furthermore, item analysis can highlight academic misconduct. Westpoint, the US Military Academy in New York, itself became embroiled in a cheating scandal when instructors conducted item analysis and determined that “[72 cadets] all made the same error on a portion of the exam.”

Assessments, as we’ve stated, should accurately measure student learning. When assessment does so, educators have access to rich data to inform teaching and learning. Often, the term “academic integrity” refers to the original thinking and ideas of students. But in the realm of assessment with integrity, accurate assessment is also a joint venture between students and instructors. By ensuring tests measure what is taught, are inclusive, are a point of communication, and are a catalyst for change, assessments support student learning outcomes as well as mitigate academic misconduct. In sum, assessment with integrity occurs when assessments transform into learning.