In classes, assessment determines if you are learning what your instructor thinks is important.
When you are taking a course and the instructor announces that there will be a test or quiz, what's the first thing you ask? If you are like most students, you want to know what will be on the test. You determine what's important to study and learn from knowing what is on the test. Your instructor uses assessment to guide your learning and to communicate and reinforce what is important to learn. However, any test is limited in its ability to assess all important information. Thus, the questions on a test are a sample of the information that the instructor wants you to know. If you study effectively, you will be prepared to answer most questions on the subject and therefore answer most questions from the subset that makes up the test.
Tips on what to ask about a test:
- Ask what content will be covered on the test
- Ask what types of questions will be on the test
- Ask if each question will have just one correct answer or if you will need to select all answers that apply
- Ask how many questions there will be and how much time you will have to complete the test
- Ask about the criteria the instructor will be using to grade the exam. Will the instructor take off points for spelling and grammatical errors? If the test will contain essay questions, how much prior knowledge is assumed? Will the instructor allow you to turn in whatever prewriting or drafts you do, as well as the revised version of the essay?
Student Dialog - Assessment is Just Part of The Learning Process
Heather: Look at this syllabus, Sage! I have a quiz EVERY DAY in Spanish! I think this instructor has really lost it!
Sage: Calm down, Heather. Why does it bother you to have to complete a quiz every day? At least she's telling you in advance what to expect instead of giving pop quizzes.
Heather: It bothers me because…. Well, because…. OK, I can see this is going to sound really stupid. It bothers me because it means I will have to study every day to prepare for the quiz the next day.
Research has confirmed that the act of testing actually improves learning. For example, let's say that after a lecture one day the instructor gives a test to half the class and no test to the other half. Then the instructor tests the entire class the next week. The half who was given the first test will score higher than the other half of the class that was not. Research has also shown that frequent testing improves learning because it allows students to focus on smaller amounts of information at a time.