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How Learning and Assessment are Linked

Learning Objectives and Assessment

Mini Case Study

In order to reach a course goal that states, "students will understand the relationship between local and regional folding in the Appalachian Orogenic Belt" a graduate student teaching a geology lab section decides to take her class into the field to visit several folded Devonian outcrops. She will ask students to find the strike and dip of outcrops at several different locations. Students will then compare the data they collected with regional scale geologic maps of the Appalachian Orogenic Belt. They will then discuss similarities and differences between the regional and local strikes. There is only one slight difficulty. The students have never used a Brunton before. As a preliminary learning activity she sets up several boards outside that have been anchored against trees on the quad. Before they begin she hands out a worksheet that has the following learning objective: Students will be able to use a Brunton Pocket Transit to find strike and dip to within 5% accuracy. After demonstrating the use of the instrument, students work to gather strikes and dips. She assesses their work and assists students until all of them achieve the learning objective. Now the students can apply this new skill to build their understandings of the relationships they will see in the field and on the maps

Elements of Effective Assessment

The brief case study above provides examples of some of the elements of assessment that actively engage students in the assessment process and provides additional opportunities for them to learn concepts and the processes of science. These are:

  • The instructor preceeds learning activities with a diagnostic pre-assessment of student knowledge and/or skills
  • Instructors design learning objectives aligned with the educational needs of their students
  • Students are actively involved in the assessment process and receive prompt feedback
  • Learners apply the skills and knowledge gained during assessment in new situations

The Graduate Teaching Assistant in the hypothetical case study performed a pre learning activity assessment by asking the students if any of them had ever used a Brunton to measure strike and dip. She set an attainable learning objective, demonstrated the process and then gave students prompt feedback, working with them until all had attained the learning objective. The students then used the new skill to build their conceptual knowledge of geoscience. This can be considered the model for assessment. There are several methods that instructors may use to assess introductory geoscience activities and courses but all use the same framework as in the dotpoints above.

Assessment in Different Learning Settings

Examples of effective assessment strategies below are paired with activities using different learning settings. Additional assessment strategies are provided in the resources listed on each page: