A Word About Assessment
We want to take a moment to address the question of assessment, that is, how you’ll know how you are doing in the course.
Our aim is to be as transparent as possible about the course expectations and intended outcomes. In the syllabus, you’ll find a section called “Major Course Assignments.” This spells out how components of your work are assessed and describes the purpose of each component, the criteria for success, and how each component contributes to a final mark. We will also include assessment tools along the way, like the Discussion Forum Rubric that is in the Course Documents.
We view assessment as a partnership with you and a critical part of your learning. An assessment isn’t simply a judgment of how you are doing, but rather an opportunity to take stock and decide next steps in your learning. For example, the facilitator may review your posts using the Discussion Rubric and then provide feedback about how you might sharpen your contributions to the discussion, or later when you are doing your classroom project, a colleague might use the criteria provided to make suggestions for improving your plan. Using the same tools, you can assess your own progress.
Self-assessment and feedback from your colleagues and the facilitator based on the course criteria will help you to gain as much as possible from the course. The course will try to model effective assessment strategies. We draw on research for this.
The research of Paul Black* and his colleagues suggests that learning is improved when teachers (facilitators):
- Share criteria for evaluating work, e.g., the criteria for success that you see in the course syllabus.
- Emphasize peer and self-assessment.
- Provide feedback on assignments without grades. Research has shown that learners pay more attention to feedback and are more willing to revise work without a grade accompanying the feedback. Once learners see a grade, it overshadows the written feedback.
We hope you will become independent learners who learn and apply self-assessment strategies such as reflecting on your own ideas in light of other perspectives, being willing to revise your thinking when faced with compelling evidence, and taking on the challenges included in each science session.
If at anytime you have concerns about your work or would like to know how your facilitator feels you are doing, by all means contact him or her. An email message will be the best way to initiate an “office hour” conversation.
* Black, Paul, et al. Assessment for Learning. New York: Open University Press, 2003.