Formative Assessments Create Opportunities to Engage Students and Assess Course-Related Knowledge and Skills

As universities move more to teaching online, how can instructors create greater opportunities for student engagement? What is the role of formative assessment in online learning and how can instructors discover what, how much, and how well their students are learning?

These questions were posed in our recent academic webinar, How Embedded Polling Increases Student Engagement for Your Online and Hybrid Classes, presented by Meret Burke, the chair of the communications and language department at Wilkes Community College.

The answers to these questions lie in Burke’s innovative use of Classroom Assessment Techniques or CATs (Angelo, T. & Cross, K.P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd Edition). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass).

Echo360’s student engagement and polling features allow Burke to create a variety of assessment activities for her online classes. CATs help Burke assess the range of course-related knowledge and skills from prior knowledge, recall, and understanding, to analysis, critical and creative thinking, problem solving, application and performance. CATs also help her assess student attitudes, values, and self-awareness of their own learning.

CATs Help to Close the Gap Between What is Taught and What is Learned

Burke defined CATs as anonymous classroom activities that help instructors assess student understanding in real time. CATs also help instructors modify their course content and teaching methods with the ultimate goal of improving student learning. Echo360’s student engagement features also make it easy to implement CATs. Student responses in Echo360 are anonymous and instructors can choose from a range of question types depending on the knowledge and skills they are trying to assess:

  • multiple choice
  • short answer
  • ordered lists
  • numerical, and
  • image questions.

“Assessment is critical to student learning,” says Burke. “We constantly assess learning in a seated classroom. When I teach online, I just have to be more intentional about it. By analyzing the student responses to my questions, I can adjust my teaching and close the gap between what is being taught and what students learn.”

Using CATs to Move from Passive to Active Learning and Increase Engagement

Burke showed webinar attendees how CATs promote a transition from passive to active learning. She said CATs can be easily adapted across the range of academic disciplines, from English to math and the sciences.

When creating CATs for her online courses, Burke focuses on the following criteria:

  • What are the essential skills and knowledge she is trying to teach?
  • How can she find out if students are acquiring those skills and knowledge?
  • What questions should she ask?
  • What can she do with the assessment data to adjust the gap between what is taught and what is learned?

“The insights I gain from the polling questions I create in Echo360 definitely help to inform my teaching,” she says. “They also create opportunities to connect with students online and that helps to increase their participation and engagement. It’s a win-win situation.”

Burke says that she has used almost all of the 50 CATs developed by Angelo and Cross, but the list below are the CATs she uses the most in her online courses. Burke demonstrated to webinar attendees how to create these CATs and embed them into their presentations and videos for synchronous and asynchronous online or hybrid classes using Echo360.

  • Muddiest point – students are asked to respond to the question, what is the most unclear or confusing point in the lecture, homework, or discussion? This helps Burke identify concepts students find difficult and what she needs to re-teach.
  • Most essential point – students are asked to respond to the question, what is the most essential or important point in the lecture, homework, or discussion.
  • Self-confidence survey – students are asked to respond to a question indicating their level of confidence in mastering the material presented.
  • Background knowledge probe – this CAT can serve as a pretest as students respond to a question at the beginning of a course or at the start of a new unit or topic.
  • Documented solutions – students are asked to “show their work” and explain how they have come to their answer.

These are just a few of the highlights from her presentation. We invite you to watch the recording. It is full of tips and ideas on how assessment activities in the form of embedded polls can help to increase student engagement, inform instruction, and improve learning.

View the webinar, How Embedded Polling Increases Student Engagement for Your Online and Hybrid Classes.

Learn more: From campus video management, lecture capture, online and hybrid learning and more,
contact us to discover how Echo360 can help transform the teaching and learning experience at your institution.

Contact Us