How do we choose what to assess?

Assessing content (facts) for the sake of it – for the most part – is a useless activity because it tells us almost nothing about how students can use the facts to achieve meaningful objectives. On the other hand, how do you assess students’ ability to apply what they’ve learned? The first is easy (i.e. assessing content and recall), while the second is very difficult (i.e. assessing how students work with ideas). If we’re honest with ourselves, we have a tendency to assess what is easy to assess, rather than what we should assess.

You can argue that your assessment is valid i.e. that you are, in fact, assessing what you say you’re assessing. However, even if the assessment is valid, it may not be appropriate. In other words, your assessment tasks might match your learning outcomes (i.e. they are valid) but are you questioning your outcomes to make sure that they’re the right outcomes?

Are we assessing the things that matter?

By Michael Rowe

I'm a lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. I'm interested in technology, education and healthcare and look for places where these things meet.