As one comes to school as a young teacher, one might find it problematic not only to establish friendly relationships with students and deliver the material effectively, but also to assess student’s performance. Assessing students’ knowledge is always challenging because, on the one hand, nobody wants to be too strict and to kill students’ interest for education, but on the other hand, a teacher has to be fair and has to give students’ the grades they deserve. In other words, it is very challenging to be objective. However, assessment of students’ work is an integral part of the process of education, and there are a number of ways to do that.
Do you remember what the most difficult task was when you were in school? Certainly, homework assignments and exams were stressful, but at least you had a chance to prepare for them. We can guess that the most stressful task was the one that was not expected.
Students are lucky when they know that next week they have a quiz and that they have seven days to review the notes and to become ready. However, quite often teachers want to see how students are doing in the class by giving a quiz that they were definitely not expecting. Yes, stress does not help much in this case, but the ones that have read the chapter or have listened to the lecture attentively will not have a problem with such a quiz. These quizzes should not count heavily towards students’ grade, but it is a good way to see which topics students understand and which topics should be clarified. If the entire class fails to answer the same question, it is a sign that a teacher needs to come back to this topic and spend more time on the explanation. The beauty of these quizzes is that the books are closed and students need to think fast to complete them to have a better grade. The quiz can be a multiple-choice test, a True or False test, a minute paper that contains two short questions, a short test with empty spaces that have to be filled with a name or a date, etc.
Nobody likes exams, and teachers are not an exception. Nevertheless, exams are necessary because they not only let a teacher assess his/her students’ knowledge, but also make students learn and pay attention to the material. It is impressive how the fact that there is no final exam in the end of the course affects students’ attitude to the subject and attention to details. Writing an exam is also very challenging. First of all, a teacher has to show how the exam aligns with the course objectives. Students need to see that the exam does cover the topics that were taught during the semester and does not contain any additional information that was not mentioned by the teacher. Another important point is that instructions have to be very clear. If you want students to answer any two questions out of four, please, make sure they can see these instructions. You should tell them in advance to read the instructions carefully if they do not want to fail the exam. The questions themselves should also be clear enough. You might have international students in your class, and they should not find it problematic to understand the question. Do not make the exam too long: remember that students need some time to think about the possible answer. If the exam will last for 90 minutes, do not ask your students to write three essays and answer forty questions that seem easy for you. Some students think fast, some need more time, but it does not mean that the first group of students understands the subject better.
Homework assignments can be very creative. You can ask students to work in pairs or in small groups. You can ask the, to write an article or to draw a map or to write a script for a play – anything that you think will help them understand the subject. Homework assignments can be more challenging then exams; however, keep in mind that your class is not the only one that your students take, so make sure that the assignment you give them will not make them spend the entire weekend on it. You could give your students questions similar to the ones that they will have on the exam. This will motivate them to pay more attention to their homework assignment.
Surveys and Poles
In addition to the traditional methods mentioned above, there is one more way to assess your students’ knowledge. Just prepare a questionnaire that your students will fill anonymously and ask them to tell what they like about the class and what they do not; what they find challenging and what they would like to improve; which topics they would like to pay more attention to, etc. Usually students know what their strengths and weaknesses are, and such an anonymous pole would give them a chance to express their opinion sincerely. It is even better if students can do it online: this way they will feel even more comfortable, relaxed, and open.
You need to know your students’ attitude towards the class you are teaching and towards you. Yes, some of them might dislike you and find your lectures boring, but the beauty of surveys is that it lets you improve your teaching style and become a better teacher for your students.