Beyond Grading: Effective Assessment Strategies for Better Learning

Beyond Grading: Effective Assessment Strategies for Better Learning  

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**Registration is full.**

December 7, 2018
9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

New Residence Hall Ballroom, 3625 avenue du Parc

How can we assess students in ways that enhance their learning and motivation? How can we provide students with ongoing feedback given time constraints? Answers to these questions necessarily involve consideration of assessment.

Often, we think of assessment as assigning a grade, but assessment is more than grading. It also involves the strategies we use to help students engage in meaningful learning and to provide students with feedback on their progress.

Teaching and Learning Services and the Assessment and Feedback Group invite all McGill instructors to attend a 1-day symposium where we will engage you in learning about creative and effective assessment strategies to help improve students’ learning and inform teaching practices. Through panel and round-table discussions, and informal networking, participants will share a wide range of strategies relevant across disciplines and applicable in both large and small classes. You will also have opportunities to reflect on the application of strategies to your teaching context.

Wondering what students have to say about assignments that have helped them learn? Take a look!

Schedule for the day

8:30 - 9:00am Registration and refreshments
9:00am - 12:30pm

Welcome and opening remarks: Chris Buddle, Dean of Students

Panel: Instructors and students reflect on their experience with assessment

Strategy Exchange

12:30 - 1:30pm Networking lunch – Food for Thought
1:30 - 3:30pm

Panel: Instructor and student reflections on their experience with assessment and feedback in large classes

Next steps

Closing remarks from the student perspective: Graduate students Kira Smith and Simone Tissenbaum

Closing remarks from TLS: Laura Winer, Director

Morning panel

Instructors will address the questions: In what ways has your assessment practice evolved during your teaching career? Why?

Adelle Blackett, Professor, Faculty of Law

Aliki Thomas, Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine

Students will address the questions: What has been your experience with assessment at McGill? How has it influenced your learning and motivation to learn?

Paul Hooley, Undergraduate Student, Faculty of Engineering

Jess Meirovici, Graduate Student, Faculty of Education

Moderator: Brenda Ravenscroft, Dean, Schulich School of Music

Strategy Exchange

The Strategy Exchange is a forum where instructors discuss how they use particular assessment strategies. These strategies, selected because they can be easily adapted across disciplines, will each be presented at a different table. Choose a strategy you would like to learn about. Sit at that table. The instructor will present for 10 minutes, and then there will be 10 minutes of discussion. After 20 minutes, a bell will ring, and you will move to another table. You will have the opportunity to learn about strategies at three different tables; therefore, you will have to make some choices. We encourage you to read the strategy descriptions prior to the symposium.


Table 1. How can you encourage students to do required readings in preparation for class discussions? The “admission tickets” assignment requires students to write thought-provoking questions about the readings. Students submit their questions at the beginning of class. Students may be more inclined to engage in in-class discussions if they’ve done some focused thinking before class. This assessment strategy is also a way to encourage participation among less vocal students.
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Presenter: Laura Madokoro, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Arts

Table 2. How can you use class time to help students prepare for major assessments? In-class polling questions can allow students to practice answering the type of questions they’ll see on exams. In addition, students receive immediate feedback because the answers from the poll are displayed in real-time in class.
Presenter: Vanessa Ceia, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Arts

Table 3. How can you turn quizzes into meaningful learning experiences? Collaborative quizzes allow students to first attempt a quiz independently and then work in small groups on the same quiz, providing them with opportunities to check their understanding with peers. It’s an immediate feedback opportunity. The small group work also serves as a class community-building activity.
Presenter: David Titley-Peloquin, Faculty Lecturer, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Table 4. How can you implement assessment methods that reflect Indigenous pedagogy and ways of knowing? Reflective, collaborative, qualitative assessment methods are in keeping with Indigenous pedagogy. These methods, in tandem with traditional approaches such as exams, can provide a more holistic assessment of student learning. Holistic assessment can benefit both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.
Presenter: Janine Metallic, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education

Table 5. How can you provide students with opportunities to engage with feedback in a large class? Peer assessment has the potential for providing students with multiple opportunities to give and receive feedback, especially when students provide each other with feedback on the quality of peers’ comments, known as “back evaluation.”
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Presenter: Lawrence Chen, Professor, Faculty of Engineering

Table 6. How can you foster teamwork skills? Peer assessment of teamwork provides students with feedback on the quality of their work, their collaboration, and interpersonal and communication skills so that they learn to work effectively as part of a team. Providing students with multiple low-stakes opportunities to practice giving peer feedback can enhance students’ investment in making teamwork work. Tools such as CATME can facilitate the assessment process.
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Presenter: Jodi Tuck, Faculty Lecturer, Faculty of Medicine

Table 7. How can feedback from lay readers enhance students’ writing? Students “translate” scientific articles written for academic audiences into articles suitable for lay audiences. Lay readers provide students with feedback on the effectiveness of their communication. Students revise their work based on the feedback they receive and then submit their revised writing to the instructor.
Presenter: Terry Hébert, Professor, Faculty of Medicine

Table 8. How can you create opportunities for students to revise their work? Multi-stage assignments can be designed so that students submit selected portions of an assignment for feedback prior to submitting a complete project. Providing students with feedback at different stages of their work supports them with the development of their thinking and writing.
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Presenter: Diane Dechief, Faculty Lecturer, McGill Writing Centre

Table 9. How can you provide students with immersive learning experiences relevant to out-of-class situations? In-class simulations allow students to learn to navigate complex workplace environments by taking on roles reflective of those in the workplace. The simulation can be an opportunity for feedback that students can use for a later assignment.
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Presenter: Pierre Forest, Lecturer, Career and Professional Development, School of Continuing Studies

Table 10. How can you assess experiential learning? Students involved in community engaged learning make links between their experiences and course concepts by doing ongoing individual reflections. Structured reflection questions and rubrics provide a framework for assessment.
Presenters: Jaimie Cudmore, Course Lecturer, PhD candidate, Faculty of Engineering and Nik Luka, Associate Professor, Faculty of Engineering

Table 11. How can you assess the “soft skills” of students working in laboratories? Performance-based assessments (PBAs) are designed to assess skills such as the ability to use equipment respectfully and follow safety guidelines. PBAs occur multiple times throughout the semester. Feedback from PBAs, in the form of written comments and a rubric, raises students’ awareness of their strengths and weakness so that they can work to improve their skills.
Presenter: Claire Trottier, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Medicine

Table 12. How can you get students to understand your expectations for the assignments they submit? Detailed assignment instructions and grading rubrics can guide students’ learning and communicate to them what you expect them to submit. Making explicit the components of an assignment and the criteria according to which it will be assessed supports students with succeeding at their assignments and self-assessing their work. It can also facilitate grading.
Presenter: Sébastien Jodoin, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law

Table 13. How can you implement authentic assessments in a large class? The poster presentation assignment requires students to summarize and communicate scientific information in a setting that simulates an actual research conference. In a 600+ student class, students prepare scientific posters for presenting at scheduled sessions throughout the semester. Students work in groups of 6; then, 3 groups are paired with a graduate teaching assistant (TA). Students receive feedback from peers and from the TA, who also assigns a grade.
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Presenters: John Gyakum and John Stix, Professors, Faculty of Science

Table 14. How can social media-based assignments get students to engage critically and creatively with course content? Students create "social media artifacts" to analyze and respond to course content. These artifacts make use of the language, style, and audiovisual affordances of the chosen social media platform. The use of flexible assessment rubrics that balance technical and conceptual factors helps ease students into this medium in a pedagogically responsible way. Students are also able to provide dynamic peer-feedback and engage with audiences beyond the classroom.
Presenter: Casey McCormick, Part-time lecturer, Faculty of Arts

Table 15. How can a choice of assignment formats foster students’ learning and motivation to learn? Students do a writing assignment in the format of their choice: research paper, narrative essay, newspaper opinion piece, or poem. The instructor provides students with specific assessment criteria. Students have the option to revise and resubmit their work further to instructor feedback comments. Providing students with alternative format possibilities allows them to demonstrate their learning in ways that are meaningful and engaging to them. A benefit for instructors: a variety of assignment types to read!
Presenter: George McCourt, Senior Faculty Lecturer, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Networking lunch - Food for thought

Meet colleagues from across the university and exchange ideas. Pick a no-topic table or a table where there will be an informal discussion on a specific topic.

Topic Facilitator
Rethinking McGill's assessment policy Chris Buddle, Dean of Students
Assessment in introductory courses Miranda Hickman, Associate Dean, Faculty of Arts
Assessment and student well-being Fabrice Labeau, Interim Deputy Provost, Student Life and Learning
Assessment of affective and soft skills Robert Leckey, Dean, Faculty of Law
Trying new assessment strategies in your courses: Risk management for pre-tenured faculty Annette Majnemer, Vice-Dean, Education, Faculty of Medicine

Afternoon panel

Instructors will address the question: How do you provide meaningful assessment and feedback to students in your large classes?

Gary Brouhard, Associate Professor, Faculty of Science

Dirk Schlimm, Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts, and Associate Member of the School of Computer Science

Students will address the question: What has been your experience with meaningful assessment and feedback in large classes?

Shreya Dandamudi, Undergraduate Student, Faculty of Arts

Howard Li, Undergraduate Student, Faculty of Science

Moderator: Jim Nicell, Dean, Faculty of Engineering

Photo credits: Justin Fletcher

 McGill Sustainable Events - Silver 

Beyond Grading: Effective Assessment Strategies for Better Learning is a Silver-level McGill Sustainable Event.

McGill University is on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. We acknowledge and thank the diverse Indigenous people whose footsteps have marked this territory on which peoples of the world now gather.

L'Université McGill est sur un emplacement qui a longtemps servi de lieu de rencontre et d'échange entre les peuples autochtones, y compris les nations Haudenosaunee et Anishinabeg. Nous reconnaissons et remercions les divers peuples autochtones dont les pas ont marqué ce territoire sur lequel les peuples du monde entier se réunissent maintenant.