A note from the Editors: This semester Teaching Tidbits will have several posts highlighting the new Instructional Practices Guide (IP Guide) from the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). The MAA has a long tradition of reporting what content should be taught in the mathematics classroom through its Curriculum Guide; now the new IP Guide addresses how things could be taught in the mathematics classroom, how one could to design that experience, and how one could assess that experience. The suggested practices are well grounded in research on student learning. In our first post about the IP Guide, we dive deeper into the Assessment Practices section of the guide. Thanks to Rick Cleary, a lead writer for this section, for providing this post.The opening statement of the Assessment chapter of the MAA Instructional Practices guide makes the following claim: Effective assessment occurs when we clearly state high-quality goals for student learning, give students frequent informal feedback about their progress toward these goals, and evaluate student growth and proficiency based on these goals. The chapter details some of the ways that effective assessment can be implemented in various types of courses. Many of the same assessment principles apply, whether you are from a big or small school, whether you teach large or small numbers of students, no matter what your lecture/active learning balance, on or off-line, developmental courses through graduate seminars. This portion of the IP Guide is designed to get colleagues thinking and talking about grounding both formative assessments that take place throughout the course and summative assessments at the end of a course in appropriate learning goals.
There is a fine line between assessments that are challenging and assessments that are discouraging. Once students become discouraged, it is hard to get them back on track. For example, traditional lecture-based instruction methods have been associated with traditional summative assessment procedures such as timed exams with questions in very specific formats. Recent research in mathematics education recommends classroom practices that provide ongoing lower stakes assessment to promote student engagement. New technology such as clickers and online polls or quizzes can help faculty provide these types of opportunities. Through vignettes grounded in the experience of the writers, the IP Guide illustrates these developments, providing instructors the tools they need to be creative as they design appropriate and equitable assessments for their courses.
The IP Guide chapter on Assessment provides both a research framework and practical tips needed to implement effective assessments that encourage, rather than discourage, student learning. It considers ways to make assessment consistent with course design and practice to promote effective learning for all students. Rather than seeing assessment as a mandate from an administration or an accrediting agency, the IP guide shows there is great value in creating a positive culture of assessment for students, faculty and departments.
Download a copy of the MAA Instructional Practices Guide today.