Preparing students to achieve learning outcomes.
In well-designed courses, summative assessments align to, and measure, specific learning outcomes of a course. Therefore, the better students perform on these indicators, the more likely they are to successfully reach the course’s learning outcomes. While students need guidance to learn content in your course, they also need guidance in how to prepare for and succeed at these assessments. Summative assessments can include both traditional and authentic assessments, consequently helping students practice for these evaluations will look quite different. Regardless of the assessment, it is important to support students in their preparation efforts while helping them develop knowledge and skills independently.
The type of assessment will require students to plan in different ways. For example, students will prepare for a multiple-choice exam in a much different way than for a group presentation. Because of this diversity, there is not one single way to prepare students for assessments.
Review the distinct and overlapping roles of both the instructor and students preceding assessments. These suggestions will be explained in greater detail below or through links to pages in the course design section of our website. Determine which strategies are appropriate for the assessments used in your course.
Instructor’s roles can include:
Students’ roles can include:
Both students’ and the instructor’s roles can include:
Progress monitoring is an active cycle of tracking performance over time through assessing formatively and applying feedback. This process is one ideally done by both the instructor and the student. Progress monitoring is an important self-regulation skill that can be applied both in and out of the classroom. Just as one might regularly track their distance and speed when training for a marathon, so too can students track and monitor their progress when preparing for summative assessments, and ultimately, course learning outcomes. The goal is to see positive improvements over time, understand where students are having difficulties and intervene with support and guidance if needed.
There are many ways to track progress such as through a digital grade center or even using a paper-based graph. Students can plot their performance scores on the graph and monitor trends over time. For example, at the end of each class, students answer five questions from that day’s lesson, based on their score and the date (or topic), they plot their data point. Students repeat this process after each quiz. It is helpful to provide students with a tool to review their progress throughout the course and model how to use it. Progress monitoring may also be a self-assessment tool such as self-reflections or self-rating systems. A self-rating system might include a scaled rubric that asks students to explore their own work and determine their performance or mastery level. Although a general rating scale could be utilized, a content or outcome specific rubric would be best.
A self-reflection might include open-ended questions such as
There are many benefits to using self-assessment as a progress monitoring tool including supporting self-regulating strategies and allotting time to reflect and critically think about learning. It is also important to give students meaningful feedback and opportunities to apply it to future learning.
When reviewing for an upcoming assessment, be transparent about testing items and content covered. Ensure that you have given students multiple opportunities to study or prepare both with support and independently. Below you will find examples of ways to implement these strategies using review guides, study sessions, practice opportunities and examples.
Review guides are particularly helpful prior to exams. It can be beneficial to include the following items:
Review sessions can be held during a class session prior to a summative assessment and will need to be built into the syllabus. To foster an effective review session, ask students to study prior to attending (including the review guide). Instead of using this time to review past lectures and topics, have students come to class prepared to ask and answer questions. Students can also submit their questions prior to the session so time can be spent answering the most frequent or important ones.
Another strategy is to utilize a jigsaw activity as part of the review session. For this, students are assigned a topic, outcome and/or chapter (individually or in a group). They then create guided notes, a summary or slides to share with others. Students can either bring copies of their guide to class or share them digitally prior to the session using a tool such as the discussion board.
In addition to a large group study session, you can also encourage students to hold small group study sessions with their peers or join one facilitated by a teaching assistant.
As discussed previously, there is not one best way to prepare for all assessments. Therefore, talking with students about suggested study strategies can be very helpful. Below you will find some common study strategies that may work for your course.
When preparing students for authentic assessments, providing review guides and holding study sessions may not be applicable. If students are completing a group project or portfolio, consider instead providing clear directions, objective criteria and an assessment tool such as a rubric.
Additionally, share examples and exemplars, noting important aspects or features. Using these examples, model how to use the assessment tool as if you were evaluating the example. Then ask students to evaluate the same example or other examples. Ensure that you are providing feedback along the way while inviting students to ask clarifying questions. When students submit their final product, ask them if you have permission to share their work anonymously with future classes. This helps you build your bank of examples and exemplars.
For further information about preparing students for success, see the following readings.