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Assess the Experience

There are two types of assessment, formative and summative, and they matter for both students and faculty. Undergraduate research teaches disciplinary practice and process, which makes the need for both forms of assessment important. Fortunately, undergraduate research lends itself to a wide range of both types of assessment activities.

Undergraduate Research Computer
Students and faculty conduct seismic refraction analysis to define depth to bedrock in their college town. Photo courtesy of Randolph College.

Formative Assessment

Formative assessment activities are those that provide feedback during the learning process. They help us understand how students learn, which can help faculty modify teaching and mentoring to better facilitate learning. They can also help students themselves understand how they learn, creating opportunities for improved metacognition. Beyond student learning, in undergraduate research, it is critical to the quality of the research itself that students and faculty understand how all participants are grappling with their research challenges.

Formative assessment can take many forms. Furthermore, the feedback provided to students can be formal or informal, and it can come from the instructor, the student herself, or one of more of the students' peers. Here are some examples:

Summative Assessment

Summative assessment activities evaluate learning and product quality at the end of a learning experience. The end of the learning experience doesn't have to be the end of a semester or the end of research project. Summative assessments can be conducted at the conclusion of some or all of the stages of the research process. Here are some examples:

Resources and Examples

The Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College has more information on assessment and on peer review.

The examples in this site's undergraduate research examples database employ a wide range of assessment activities and even offer some rubrics. Explore them, and see which may work best for your undergraduate research experience.

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