Student Choice in Assessment
“I am asking [the students] to join me in learning together” – Sharaz Khan
Every student learns differently. Certain methods of assessment work well for some students, but not for others. Allowing students to have autonomy over the way they are assessed gives them the opportunity to use their strengths to demonstrate their learning. Sharaz Khan, an instructor in the Haskayne School of Business, believes that more student choice leads to more student learning. He has started to put an increased focus on Learner Centered Assessment (LCA), the idea that assessment should be designed to fit the individual students in a class, instead of the students having to change to fit how they are being assessed. He has it work effectively in his Business and Technology Management (BTMA) 317 course.
Using the book Assessment That Matters: Using Technology to Personalize Learning by Kim Meldrum, Khan has developed different ways to give his students a say in their assessments. While there are some parts of the course that are predetermined and follow the same structure each semester, there is also some space in the course outline for students to choose the format of smaller assignments. On the first day of class, Khan asks his students how they would like to be assessed. This often surprises them, as they are not used to being given a choice.
Students think about the type of format they would like to try, based on their learning style and previous experience. Some ask to create video summaries of course content instead of having to write them out. Others feel that they would best demonstrate their knowledge of the content by writing and answering a set of potential midterm or final exam questions. Khan gives students the opportunity to be as creative as they want, and he tries to accommodate as many different ideas as he can. Most students can easily come up with assessment methods they would like to try. Some are unique ideas that Khan had never considered trying before.
Giving students a choice over some of their smaller assessments does not change any the way the course runs or the material that students are required to know. Although they may communicate it in different ways, students are all showing their understanding of the same content. Khan also keeps major assessments, such as the two-stage final exam, consistent.
Khan admits that creating space for student choice does take some time and effort at first, but the benefits are worthwhile. Students enjoy having freedom over the format of some assessments, and they like seeing that their instructor values their individual strengths and abilities. They feel more engaged and connected to the content when they can work with it in a way that fits with their style of learning.
Khan hopes to find more opportunities to involve students in his course design. He has several ideas for integrating more LCA into future classes and hopes to make more room for student choice in assessment. Traditional assessment strategies, with no room for flexibility or student input often don’t reflect the nature of the industries in which students will work. “In performance evaluations, employees are often asked how they would like to be assessed.” says Khan, “Why should it be any different for students who will one day be those employees?”