FALL 2020: Improving the Learning Experience with Low Stakes Assessments

Published by Brett Christie, PhD
on Nov 19, 2020

In a world where learners experience giving and receiving feedback throughout their daily life, learning experiences most often provide the opposite. While learners are used to sensing and taking in an experience as part of processing their day, many times students and faculty have no sense of how well learning is happening until the mid-terms, final exams or final projects are graded. This serves no stakeholder well.

Good news! Low-stakes assessments help create an effective feedback loop and are easy to implement anytime in the term.

In our second FALL 2020 webinar, Improving the Learning Experience with Low-Stakes Assessments, O’Donnell Learn’s CEO, Carrie O’Donnell and I present four simple, low- stakes assessment techniques you can quickly use to improve your students’ learning experience.

1. Polls and Quizzes

These flexible techniques provide a continuous feedback loop while simultaneously increasing engagement. Be sure to demonstrate to learners how your polls and quizzes align with course materials to encourage engagement. Examples include:

  • Publisher resources
  • Adaptive learning
  • Polling via Zoom, Poll Everywhere, Google Forms
  • Quizzing tools like Kahoot.

Tip: Use often to glean feedback and to track progress; adjust instruction based on responses to close learning gaps.

2. Peer Instruction with Think-Share-Pair

This peer-to-peer feedback opportunity has been in practice for over 25 years and has been shown to motivate students, promote higher-order thinking, while also creating community engagement. Think-Share-Pair works as follows:

  • Ask an open-ended question
  • Learners consider and write down responses
  • Learner pairs or small groups discuss answers
  • Learner pairs/groups share with class
  • Instructor comments and clarifies.

Tip: Works best in a synchronous environment with tools like Zoom Breakout Rooms; with asynchronous learning, try Padlet.

3. Muddiest Points

Less frequently used, this technique asks students to share about their current struggles with the course. It provides immediate, contextual feedback to faculty and works in all modalities (discussion boards, Padlet, even chat) as follows:

  • Instructor poses one of the following questions
    • What was the most unclear or confusing point about the [lecture, reading, homework, discussion, etc.]?
    • What important question remains unanswered?
  • Use responses to help direct where to adjust lesson, resources or learner activities

Tip: Though uncomfortable for some, this technique does offer one of the quickest routes to know where any learning is off-track. Check out this template to learn more.

4. Exam Wrappers

So often learners focus on just a score as an indication of success over also focusing on learning and progress. This is an excellent method for helping learners adapt future learning by identifying strengths and weaknesses, recurring error patterns and any issues with prep time and strategies. Here’s how it works:

  • Provide a handout/worksheet for learners to complete the same day the graded exam is received
  • Guide learners to review performance with an eye toward future learning
  • Learners give wrappers back to instructor
  • Instructor returns wrappers to learners in prep for the next exam.

Tips: Use an exam wrapper after each graded exam is returned to help learners continue to adapt their learning for greater success. View Exam Wrapper samples here.

What’s interesting is we’ve found that the one thing learners consistently ask for is feedback – and they want it frequently. Learners want to learn and low-stakes assessments are the perfect vehicles for both students and faculty to give and receive much needed feedback which can be used to help adapt and shape instruction, close learning gaps, and improve learning success. A win-win for all.

Watch the full webinar here (Run time: 30 Mins)

Join us for our next webinar “Prep for Spring Semester with the Purposeful Learning Scorecard” on Wednesday, December 2nd at 12pm ET.

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