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Using Assessment to Manage Student Learning Outcomes

Guest Contributor Dr. Clayton Austin

Mid-terms. Finals. Quizzes. Undoubtedly you -- and your students -- are all familiar with these assessments. But perhaps you'd like to gauge student progress toward outcomes before you see the results from a major test... and before it's too late for a student to change direction. Below, Dr. Clayton Austin shares one of his methods for assessing his students' progress prior to a big exam -- and it takes less than five minutes!

Watching the Olympics this summer made me think of how college is like an athletic competition. At the beginning of the term it's like all our students and faculty are at the edge of the pool, ready to start the semester-long race. With excitement we all hit the water, and splash and kick our way across. But months later, when we breathlessly pull ourselves out on the other side, we realize that many of us, too many of us, did not make it. They lost the game we play called "Sink or Swim."

For many students, waiting to get feedback from me until the mid-term is too late, but I also want to avoid testing too early. So I find myself using more and more non-graded assessments to manage progress towards student learning outcomes. An example is the One Minute Paper where students have one minute to respond to the following five questions and one minute to share with two classmates:

I collect these responses as students leave class (I call it their "exit ticket"), at which time I can quickly scan through them to get a sense of the class as a whole, as well as become aware of particular students' progress towards outcomes. This gives students a chance to self-assess, compare their understanding with peers, and get feedback from me -- all in less than five minutes.

Dr. Clayton Austin is a Senior Consultant with TeamUP Faculty Programs and teaches for the Master of Arts in Teaching Program at the University of Southern California.