- Beyond Tests and Quizzes: Creative Assessments in the College Classroom
The editors of this volume, Richard Mezeske and Barbara Mezeske, are both professors at Hope College, a small Christian college in Michigan with an enrollment of 3,200. Likewise, most of the chapter authors are faculty members at the college or have some connection with the college. Though the introduction claims that “it is not a book written predominately by Hope College faculty for Hope College Faculty” (p. xx), the lack of institutional and student diversity represented suggests that some claims made by the chapter authors have not been tested in different types of organizational contexts or with an array of diverse learners. With that caveat noted, the stated intent of the book is to provide alternative assessment techniques that may apply in a variety of disciplines and to a range of learners.
The 14 chapters present different approaches to assessment over a range of course topics, including English, history, education, German, engineering, health care, and communication. Reading this book is reminiscent of conversations with faculty colleagues over a cup of coffee. The tone and approach is that of sharing best practices and ideas, without a heavy reliance on research. The first chapter, written by the editors, lays out the arguments for assessing student learning and notes the role of public demands for accountability as the driving force. Underlying their arguments for alternative assessment is the need for active learning in classrooms and moving beyond memorization for tests to assessing learning.
Several of the chapters highlight departmental responses to national accreditation requirements, particularly in teacher education and engineering. The framework provided to meet professional credentialing standards in many ways makes assessment easier; such a mandate brings with it solidarity in departmental and college action. Currently, nothing compels college faculty members to meet national testing standards like their counterparts in K–12 education; and as a result, individual faculty may lack the motivation to comply with the calls for standardized assessment.
Creativity in forms of assessment provides a key strength in this book. Given that most faculty are trained in their disciplines and not in the pedagogy of teaching and learning, the variety of formats in which student learning may be reviewed provides a rich array of approaches with which some teaching faculty might not be familiar. One chapter reviews concept maps, a means by which students may visually represent their understanding of course contents. Pictorial examples show how the process can work in practice. Readers can use the clear directions and rubrics provided to apply this technique to their own classes.
Another chapter highlights how students may select how they will be evaluated, choosing from a menu of options. Ownership over learning motivates students to focus on what matters to them. Practice provides another opportunity to assess learning. For a history class, the department created a “primary” data source based on the Wizard of Oz. Students culled information from the data to practice developing skills for historical analysis.
Measuring learning in what at first appears traditional means through lab practical assessments and exams also gets fresh handling. Testing for hands-on ability to use lab equipment provides a means to not only evaluate individual learning but also to track skill development across the program curriculum. Another chapter focuses on a distinctive approach to exams. The author required students to meet with him individually to grade exams. In the meeting, students had to justify their answers; thus, even if a correct response was given but for the wrong reason, the answer received only partial credit—and vice versa. Such a significant time commitment for faculty, however, could be possible only in small classes.
Technology provides the basis for other forms of assessment presented. One chapter highlights how students created a website on German culture. Students must devote a great deal of time to the technical skills required to create their sites, which may provide an indirect benefit of the project. Another example of...