Assessment of Student Learning

Different courses have different objectives, so assessments of student work should be tailored to best incentivize them to achieve those objectives. For example, I have found that without a rewards system that encourages students to explain their reasoning, students' physics homework sets may include no reasoning regardless of whether their answers are mathematically "correct." To correct this, I've come to embrace the idea of using written problem sets to reward students for explaining their work, rather than just manipulating equations.

I've included such an assignment in my example syllabus. You can find an example of how I would structure the grading scheme for a write-up homework assignment below .

Assessment as Feedback

I have found that many of my students are very worried about their grades on their homework sets and quizzes. These students are ambitious and consider themselves to be intelligent and hard-working, so it can be unnerving for them to receive low scores on assignments. I remember feeling the same way as an undergraduate, so I sympathize.

To alleviate the anxiety associated with small assignments, I believe that instructors should make it clear that some assignments are intended as feedback for the students themselves. Rather than seeing a low quiz score as an indication of being a bad student, I want my students to see my grading as an indication of what areas they can improve upon, or what they need to review for the future.

In my class for the past two semesters, I have implemented this informally without making this distinction explicit. I use discussion section as an opportunity for students to try and figure things out on their own without any fear of making mistakes. Discussion section is a low-stress environment where students can fail without consequences as well as learn from their mistakes. Of course, this is different from telling students explicitly that assignments can be thought of as feedback rather than judgment, but I will be adopting this new policy for future courses.

Sample Rubric

Referring back to the sample syllabus that appears under Course Development and Lesson Plans, I mentioned that I would like my future students to develop the ability to make clear arguments based on the physics concepts that we have covered. Homework sets, rather than featuring plug-and-chug problems, would consist of one or two long-form write-up problems.

Below I have included a grading rubric that communicates to students what elements need to be present in their homework sets. In addition to rewarding students for arriving at the correct answer, the grading rubric emphasizes organization, clarity, and completeness of the argument. By making it clear to students what a good homework set is expected to look like, I hope to train them in good communication habits that will help them in future science courses.

Example Grading Rubric: Homework Write-ups