Educative Assessment

I’m glad I now have the phrase “educative assessment” to add to my teaching vocabulary. I’ve always loved the idea of assessment playing dual roles, allowing the educator to evaluate a student’s progress in a course, but most importantly acting as a learning tool for the learner.

So here are the things Fink has me think about for assessment:

Forward-looking assessment

A situation in which students are likely to use what they have learned:

These students are communications majors writing their term papers, which is a writeup on a PR campaign of a company of their choice. This involves lots of different big concepts, so I think I’m going to focus on just one important aspect of the course. The idea of using research to solve a question is one learning goal I outlined last week that seems pretty fruitful for contextualizing this assessment.

So here’s the scenario:

An intern for a brand you represent tweeted something culturally insensitive from the company’s Twitter last night, and your client woke up this morning to thousands of angry messages and dozens of headlines criticizing the brand. He wants your help to minimize the damage and repair the brand’s image quickly.

Though time is of the essence, your client also wants to know that your solution is based in evidence. So before taking further action, pause and determine a few things:

  • What questions do you need answers to that can help you decide on the best plan of action for this issue?
  • Who might have information that can help you make decisions about this plan? In other words: where could you go to find this information? The “who” at this stage should be pretty non-specific. Think about the sorts of professionals, scholars, speakers, or writers who might be knowledgeable about this sort of problem and solutions for moving forward, not necessarily a particular person or publication.

Criteria and standards

distinguish exceptional achievement from poor performance:

The exceptional student defines information needs that go beyond the factual. At the same time, their questions are practical (i.e. can be answered with research) and able to be operationalized to a degree. Overall, the student looks beyond their immediate situation to consider theoretical and historical information to begin to devise a solution to their problem.

The exceptional student considers a wide, varied set of potential information sources. The student thinks creatively to consider experts, practitioners, and publications that are likely to have answers, including those outside peripheral to the subject area (e.g. sociologists who study oppression) and companies who have been in similar situations.


opportunities for students to evaluate themselves for their performance:

Now that you’ve brainstormed what information you need and where you might find it, use those ideas to begin gathering research to solve your client’s issue. As you research, make note of the following:

  • Whether the questions you posed are the ones that will best help you help your client. Do you need to adapt your questions in any way to get answers to them? Is it possible to answer them? Are there essential questions you didn’t ask at first?
  • Whether the information sources you brainstormed are in fact the ones that will help you get answers. Are there sources you didn’t consider? Are there sources that turned out to be dead ends?

“FIDeLity” feedback

opportunities to give feedback that is Frequent, Immediate, Discriminating, and “Lovingly delivered:”

Frequent: I can have students talk to each other about questions they’ve devised and share to the class in order for them to learn from each other and hear my feedback, not only to their work but to their classmates’.

Immediate: Again, the class exercise would enable me, as well as their classmates, to provide immediate feedback to their work. I think the key is really to just make sure to give them feedback about their questions and potential sources before they really get into writing the paper, while they’re in the research phase. If there’s an important question I don’t think they’ve asked, it’s pretty vital for me to guide them in that direction while they’re still in the process of research.

Discriminating: In this class exercise I might set up a few guidelines for things I’m looking for: i.e. whether they pose questions that suggest they’re interested in looking at broad implications, whether the sources they’ve identified seem accurate yet exploratory.

Lovingly delivered: Obviously, just not being a jerk. Catering to the affective side of getting feedback, celebrating successes, talking about points of improvement as growth opportunities.