For us fortunate beings who have been able to go to school, we have been subject to a lot of assessment tools since the day we’ve stepped into the classroom. You name it: short and long quizzes, long tests, multiple-choice/true-false/mix-and-match/fill-in-the-blank exams that never seemed to end, performative tasks like group reporting and demonstration, and a whole lot of stuff that usually ends up with a written grade on top. Little is known to us students why teachers subject us to so many assessments in the first place, and even more so when it comes to how teachers design them in the first place.
For most of my student life, studying for exams and other assessment tasks were a trivial task for me. I had never developed good study habits and was the ever-so lucky procrastinator who was able to breeze through high school and up until third year college albeit with a few challenges. Most often, the technique of studying what seemed to be the most important details in a lesson (backwash) and what was important to the teacher at the last minute was my strategy to prepare a few nights before a test or exam. I also developed a bit of disdain for such assessments since I felt it wasn’t an authentic assessment of what I knew, so I focused my efforts on my improving my writing and communication skills (and it paid off for essay-type assessment tools and performative tasks).
Fast forward to today and I find myself more dedicated and willing to study for my educational subjects than ever before, perhaps because there is more appreciation of the social value and financial cost of education and its importance in my growth as a professional researcher, mother and future acupuncturist/data scientist/educator. For the past months, I have taken a wide range of assessments in other different academic programs other than UPOU’s Professional Teaching Certification (PTC) program:
SMIC-TCM’s Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine Certificate Program
- Acupuncture classes like Western Pharmacology I, Western Pathophysiology I, Acupuncture Points and Theory I stress traditional assessment methods like long and short multiple-choice exams because the nature of its learning begins with rote memorization or surface learning that requires familiarity with concepts for later application. In particular, Acupuncture Points and Theory I relies on rote memorization of human anatomy concepts so that students can better locate the points and be familiar with popular points used in acupuncture.
- In the same manner, Acupuncture Points and Theory I also use authentic assessment or non-traditional assessment with non-graded point location exercises and graded practical exams that ask students to locate a random set of acupuncture points. This is particularly important since we need the experience and hands-on practice because this is crucial in actual acupuncture later (and certainly, we can’t afford to needle the wrong location!)
- Acupuncture classes like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Philosophy I, TCM Foundations I, and Medical Ethics place more emphasis on non-traditional assessment types like essays and take-home assessments because the professors understand that students can understand theories better if there is time for them to read, study, and answer questions
DOST-PCIEERD MOOCs Data Science Scholarship Program
- Each module of the course on Coursera employs its own mix of traditional and authentic assessment. The first module (“Introduction to Data Science”) focused more on concepts so the ten-item quizzes embedded in each week of the module was based on the content of the video lectures available. For the three succeeding modules, it leaned towards authentic assessment as students were expected to perform what was learned without any time limit. The four short-quizzes became more complex because students were compelled to program and to run a series of commands on the software (R) in order to get the right answers to the questions. To add to the complexity, John Hopkins embedded several peer-graded assignments in the modules which required students to come up with their own codes in relation to a real-life problem using big data from the Internet. While the course is self-paced and resources are plentiful on the Internet, students must also be familiar with the language of R programming and must constantly practice to ensure that they do not forget the commands or functions that they are expected to know.
- After the completion of each module on Coursera, the DOST sends a separate short online and timed quiz to scholars as an assessment to determine whether they will advance to the next module. A re-take examination is also given to scholars who do not pass the first exam to help boost their chances of promotion. After completion of the four modules, the top 50 scholars with the highest scores can proceed to advance modules on Coursera. This is what may be labelled as “high-stakes” traditional assessment because it ultimately determines if a student will be promoted and how many scholars are benefiting and will benefit from the program. With the conclusion of the last quiz for the third module last week, DOST must have assessed that their ten-item quiz which required actual application could not be answered in 30 minutes for most of the scholars, so their re-take examination was shortened to five-items and the administrator shared the content and required data so that scholars are better prepared.
In literature, much has been debated about the pros and cons about traditional and non-traditional/authentic assessment, yet it isn’t all black and white. As I’ve experienced as a student, traditional assessment works well for subjects and disciplines that require good familiarization on theoretical knowledge and concepts because they are important in practice or in the profession later on (e.g. human anatomy for doctors, ABCs for functionally literate citizens). On the other hand, authentic assessment works well with subjects and disciplines that rely heavily on performance and actual hands on experience to encourage deeper learning. Additionally, traditional assessment can be transformed into authentic assessment and teacher-centered assessment can be changed to become learner-centered assessment. Knowing the different types of assessment and their purpose will help teachers be assessment-literate so that they can better design their assessments in the classroom and align them with learning goals and their educational philosophy.
As a college student, I felt that traditional assessment was just another one of those requirements that needed to be fulfilled. As a lifelong learner, I now feel that it is not as simple as it looks like and it also serves an important purpose in the education system. Educators must use a variety of assessment methods to capture learning and must be able to justify their use and design. How we capture learning also depends on our own personal belief about how learning takes place in the classroom and how it is related to other subjects and the outside world.
Lastly, reflection is an important part of the teaching-learning process, so educators must know the differences among informal and formal assessment, assessment for learning/assessment as learning (formative assessment), and assessment of learning (summative assessment) and make an educated decision on what to use in the classroom. Equally important, reflection will help educators decide whether an assessment is effective, valid, and reliable so that they can act accordingly and make changes in the classroom.
For now, I will go back to studying because I face the following assessments this week: a 50-item multiple choice exam for Western Pharmacology, an online quiz and a programming assignment for the first week of Module 4 of Data Science, and a one-page reflection paper on medical ethics for handling terminal illnesses.
Learning has never been so fun.