What Kinds of Assessments Do You Find Most Effective? | Coursera Community
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What Kinds of Assessments Do You Find Most Effective?

  • 3 November 2018
  • 23 replies

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Assessments are an important part of every course, whether it be for a grade or just personal knowledge. What kinds of assessments do you find most effective?
Quizzes? ( Muktiple choice? Fill in the blanks?)
Essays or written responses?
Are peer assessments effective?
Let’s discuss assessments, share your thoughts.

23 replies


Most useful for science courses:

Multiple choice with:

10 questions
80% pass rate
At least 3 questions that ask for a number or a word that cannot be ‘guessed’ , so, a number has to be calculated, a word found in the course material.
Three submissions only, or a score per question.
Overall course score: a certain percentage, so, failing one quiz can be made up by passing others with a high score.
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All types of assessments have their pros and cons. I will, therefore, write a mixed response, based on my experiences.

Starting with a quiz.
If it asks about the concept discussed in the course, with options that help the learner to recall finer aspects of that concept, making it distinguishable from look-alike concepts, it is worth it.
Along with it, the number of attempts limited to 3, may add to sincerity. This helps the learner with instant results and hence fix responsibility for poor grades on self, thence most often it initiates self-improvement process. Even if a learner is not going to have a re-look at the right concept, for any reason, he is still aware of what is not right. I find it better.
But quizzes that emphasise on learner remembering names of researchers/ contributors/authors, imo, do not add much to learning, I understand that recognition is important, but cannot be all over quiz, rather it could be built in the question text.

Fill in the blanks.
Imo is not a good option online because of spelling issues, appropriate/ right word issue/ lower/upper case issue.

Writing answer.
Unless evaluated and feedback given by competent authority, is not at all useful. Often it requires little creativity as well as language command, for most learners, it is not a good option.

Peer-evaluated assignments.
More I am taking them, more I am convinced that they are losing their utility fast.
Since most learners do not read instructions, the assignment is not up to the mark.
Even if a learner reads instructions, the instructions may not be clear/complete/in line with a rubric.
The rubric is often not clear/ambiguous.
Imo, if the rubric is also visible before writing an assignment, the quality of assignments can improve, because the learner will try to include all points on which he will be evaluated and work hard to get the maximum grade.
It will be more useful for those learners who put in sufficient efforts in the completing assignment but being clueless about rubric, end up losing grades and feel frustrated.
The reviewer if not ready to spend time reading other's work, may end up grading randomly, either giving full grades or failing or anything in-between.
The learner feels bad if grades are low despite work presented is in line with the rubric.
Feedback is a very big issue. Often it doesn't justify providing low grades because it is not FAST.
Even if it is well intended, it is seldom perceived that way. It opens doors for revenge grading in next assignments or allegations are exchanged on the discussion forum.
I think we all think we are perfect and there is no scope for improvement. So here blame is always fixed externally. It is not conducive to learning.
Besides this, all reviewers are not at the same level of understanding/ learning, so it is not justified to grade others when my own concepts are not clear.
In a classroom setting, each student has some basic level of education completed, like for a course on Diabetes, in a classroom setting all students are in medical school, in case of online platform, anyone with education level of school drop out to post-graduation/ PhD/ several years of practice in the field are reviewing each other's work hence both often get unfair grading. I am yet to figure out how this aspect is taken care of.
Often reviewer allots full grades just to not upset or thinks it is ok. To err on the positive side doesn't add to guilt.
Besides all this plagiarism is of major concern and methods used are a nightmare for a studious learner, whose work is alotted zero grades and submitted as own work, which makes this studious learner appear as copying someone else's work on resubmitting his own work. It is victimisation of the victim if the platform takes action.
I can go on and on as far as peer-graded assignments are concerned.
I feel there should be an option to appear for additional quizzes, could be of some more difficult level, in case a learner doesn't want to opt for peer-graded assignment. I can assure you, I will be first to avail this option.
@Namrata Tejwani

i totally agree greed on your view on peer review assignments. Only if they are assessed by competent people are they of any value.
@Namrata Tejwani , thank you for such a thoughtful,comprehensive reply with much for us all to think about. This is a difficult and complex issue. Your solution of creating challenging quizzes is a good one. However, it is so challenging to do this. You want to be able to assess for knowledge as well as application of the knowledge. Can you accomplish this effectively with a quiz? I am still thinking over much of what you brought up and hope others will as well.
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Yes, @Judith, it is possible to use only quizzes and evaluate learning effectively. One of the toughest exam here in India, JEE is using quizzes. Idea is to get creative with options to choose from, keep multiple right options that collectively form a whole concept. I am not saying that Assignments should be scrapped, I am asking for adding an option of assignment or quiz for people like me so that I can choose what to learn when to learn, how to learn and how to get evaluated.
To add value to course certificates from Coursera, we need to better our evaluation process On EdX we get total one attempt for test quiz, whatever is thw score, it is final. If we fail, we repeat course when offered next. I prefer that.
@Namrata Tejwani I agree on EdX, I really like their grading system. It is clever to have a certain number of attempts at individual questions too. And you can fail one quiz and still pass the course by doing well on other quizzes
For me, questions on the quizzes that change after each try and as well explaining why the answer was correct or wrong, is the most effective style for me.

First, because there´s no way to memorize the correct answers since the questions are changing every quiz attempts.

Second, it is really helpful if we can read why our answers was wrong or why it is correct. It will help us to recall what we learned from that course.

Third, I also find it useless sometimes the Peer review because some people really have a crab mentally. They just give you a low score without valid reasons, specially in the courses with Honor Grade.
@Namrata Tejwani , I have found myself baffled by some multiple choice quizzes. I would know the correct answer but be unable to match it to the choices the way I perceived it. And then when asked if it is one choice or two choices or all choices or none, it really becomes confusing. But I could see how this method can be effective. I like the simple fill in the blanks for information which is straightforward. This is the answer, period.

My favorite kind of assessment is the one that asks you to use the information you have learned and write something that combines everything.
The problem becomes, who grades this?
I have thought a lot about peer assessments and it is very sad that it works so poorly. Could there be a different way to grade fairly? My son, who has created the Coursera courses I Mentored, had an interesting idea. Every course would have 3 essay type assignments, getting progressively more complex. The first one or two would evaluative. People who excelled would be considered in an A group. These will usually be the people who will assess the best as well, having spent a lot of time on their own assignments. The bottom group C would be comprised of those who didn’t put much effort into the assignments. These would probably be the same people who wouldn’t put effort into grading as well. Group B would be the average. By the final assignment, the computer would know these groupings. Your assignment will be graded by at least one A group person. A group assessments will be worth more points too, that’s sort of the idea. You need to find a system that will be fair to everyone. Your hard work deserves to be graded by someone who would take the time to read it and think about it. Something like this would need to be built into the system so the grading is fair. In this Mentor course many have been upset by their grades. I have looked at some assignments which were excellent and puzzled over whether they were understood.

@Lochcarron and @Namrata Tejwani , I also agree that there shouldn’t be unlimited attempts at a quiz. It makes it too easy. If the quiz is a good one, you should be able to go back to the materials to rethink and understand the materials. If you are struggling, then you always have Mentors to ask, or other learners. This would make the certificates more meaningful. People could always audit a course it they are interested in learning without the pressure of a grade. Thank you both for such a good discussion!

However effective the method your son proposed is for Humanties courses (and it looks like a good one), it would certainly not work for most science courses where people would be expected to choose the correct formula for the solution to the problem and execute the calculations correctly, imo.
@Lochcarron You are so right! Science courses are very different. They usually don’t have essay type assignments mmor am I wrong? Itnis so good to have a science person weigh in about this too.
@Judith One of my science courses has PRAs. However, the prof has created excellent rubrics for grading. Like giving the graders certain words that should be in the submissions. There are multiple choice quizzes too.
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@Judith, I understand that multiple right answers in a quiz might be baffling for many, including me. The quiz can have multiple right answers and partial grading for all right selected, to curb the tendency to mark all options right, they can add negative marking for ticking each wrong choice. It brings in a lot of discipline.
Essay type question answers are like regurgitating what all you learn. Even if it involves the application of learning, it may add evaluator's beliefs and values to it while grading, being a global platform, imo it doesn't work equally for each stakeholder. More so in humanity courses.
Creating groups of A, B or C still have subjective tones to grading. I recall one very popular course on the old platform. It had quizzes, and then final peer evaluation that was to select learners who can take final quiz exam. All quizzes had an ever-changing set of questions with each attempt, with partial grading for each right answer. So an understanding of the concepts was very much a prerequisite to passing a quiz. I passed all the quizzes within 65% to 98% marks range in first attempt ( minimum passing grade was 65%, as far as I recall). Then there was a peer-graded assignment, where we had to evaluate peers so that only top 60% students can appear for the final quiz exam. There was weightage given to score from the quiz and added to its score from peer grading, with a minimum passing grades 65% here as well if you get total of 70 % you can appear for final quiz. Fair enough. To my horror, I got absolute zero in peer grading, and despite having an average score in quizzes well above class average score, I was denied my right to appear for the final exam. Just one step short of completing the course, my work of 6 weeks went down the drain. I was not alone, many learners with above 90% quiz score got a zero, the forum was full of such complaints. At that time anonymity was an option, so nobody came to know who did what. To me, it left a bad taste. For many next courses, I only audited without attempting any assignments. I could afford that because I was not learning to benefit my career, I was learning out of curiosity. what about those who were learning to enhance their career? This and many more courses put a big ? mark on fairness of evaluation, all those who pass and all those who fail. The value of certificate earned is also questionable, imo.
@Namrata Tejwani , you raise so many valid questions and points about assessments in an online environment. Your experiences are so extensive. I appreciate you sharing these with us all here.
What happened to you as a result of that zero peer grade sounds horrible! I can understand why this can become a serious issue and turn people away from online courses. This is probably the most valid reason for prefering a real University setting, where you are evaluated by either the Instructor or an assistant with extensive knowledge. Your work will hopefully be fairly graded.

At my age, (retirement age!) I appreciate the value of a good course experience and enjoy learning for the sake of personal knowledge and enhancement. Quiz questions that simply test your knowledge or memory of the materials without a grade are a good way to assess as you progress. In the course my son created, every few minutes of the video, it is stopped, questions asked, you respond, are told the correct answers afterwards, then continue to watch. It forces you into slowing down to digest what you are learning without a grade. I really like warching a video like this. If i were in a classroom I would stop the video, discuss the materials, then move on. You really absorb the information well like this. Taking the pressure away from a grade yet still having an assessment component is the way I wish all courses could be....but again, I don’t need to show an employer that I have taken a course, it is all just for my pleasure! : )

Not all essay questions are those that you just repeat what the Professor tells you. If it is a good question it might ask you to use what you have learned in a real life situation,for example.

Is there a fair solution to assessments here in an online environment? Perhaps grade the assessors? ...except that failed in your situation.
Coursera had tested something out that had the potential to be effective, except it failed.I always wondered why.
I think it was about a learner paying more to get work assessed by a paid assessor. This way your work would be guaranteed to be evaluated by someone knowledgeable. The problem might have been, people didn’t want to pay more, or who do you choose to do this assessing?

Fair evaluations are quite the dilemma, What do others think? Thank you, as always,Namrata, for such a thoughtful discussion.
@Judith Thanks for starting this discussion - it's a topic I'm really interested in hearing from folks here. One idea I've thought about is giving people a chance to respond to feedback - e.g., was this helpful - yes/no? I'm curious what folks think about that, or other ways of helping improve feedback.

Also, in terms of grouping people together, how would folks feel about allowing people to self-identify whether they are dedicated to putting in time for feedback vs. not? That way, if folks don't really care as much about peer review (for example), they could opt to take the course with only quiz questions.

These are all just initial ideas, but would love to hear what folks think!
@helen , so good to meet again here! You know these are my favorite ideas for improving assessments! I hope others will agree and understand how important these are to a learners success! How can you improve if you don’t understand what you need to improve? It is essential to set up such communication between learners. It will also make this a more valuable experience for peers who are grading, to know they can reach and discuss this with the learners. What do others think?

The other idea will eliminate so much frustration for people who take assessments seriously. I hope these ideas can be implemented. Thank you for bringing them up!
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Great discussion topic and thread.

I have experienced some of the negative emotions expressed in some of the several dozen of courses that I have taken over the past years. I would not opt out from projects that are peer reviewed according to the rubric. The fact that not insignificant number of learners do not pay attention to the rubric when submitting their project, nor in evaluating others are not valuable reasons to use the project to demonstrate that the learn can communicate effectively that they have learned the topic sufficiently well.

During my working life, I have met professionals with degrees and yet lack critical thinking. Back to assessment method, quiz is an assessment of rote learning or memorization. Project based learning with well designed rubric helps the learner in multiple ways, including but not limited to the subject being assessed.

As for the cheaters, I don't know enough about how Coursera would address that. I am not as bothered, as in the end, the cheaters are cheating themselves. Cheating habit will one day catch up with them.
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I like this thread and I would agree with many points made.
What assessment works best depends very much on the type of the course, science or social subject. I like quizzes and essays but have reservation towards peer review for reasons already mentioned in the previous posts.
Maybe just to add to this discussion what type of assessment I had in one of courses on Edx. After video lecture there is a short quiz (graded ) just to make sure that the learner has understood the lecture. It motivates learners to pay attention.

After several video lectures (and resources to be read) there is a longer multiple choice quiz ((graded with percentages and negative points for incorrect answers) to assess whether the learner understood the subject and is able to apply the knowledge. For example, the learner is given a hypothetical situation and is requested to choose the approach.

After a serial of lectures, there is a project to be done. And finally, there is a proctored exam.
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This has been an interesting thread and some very good points made. However, no mention of why MOOC providers encourage quizzes and peer assessment as valid assessment methods. Certainly they can be useful in an armory of learning tools but as already pointed out there are many known drawbacks. In the context of MOOC economics, automatic marking and the absence of too many highly paid experts are important considerations given massive numbers of learners. MOOC providers use particular methods for assessment purposes but this is not entirely driven by educational concerns.
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@Judith Programming Assessments are very efficient It gives multiple number of submissions until we get as per expected output which is really interesting!

And finally it would be great if i get a place where i am able to identify my mistakes and its respective reasons. This would help me to understand the reason behind my errors and also which will improve my knowledge skills on the subject.

Thanks for your support.
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I very much like quizzes in English courses offered by the University of California, Irvine. The quizzes are not all the same and some are really amusing . Good thing about quizzes is that if you made mistake, you get corrected and an explanation is provided.
That’s excellent! Getting immediate feedback is so important. It is still my pet peeve that there is no interaction built into assignments here. People need to know and understand how to improve. A good assessment should be anle to provide this.
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I can only agree. Once, I have beta tested one course and tried to answer one of the test questions. it was only one question and the course subject was not a rocket science; :)). I have read the course material before attempting to take the test. But I have failed to provide a correct answer. After several attempts I have given up. And I was not the only one who had wondered if there is the correct answer to that question at all. It was a frustrating situation albeit a bit funny too.
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Multiple answer quizzes would not be relevant in the courses I take, but even if they were, I would rather prefer peer assesments. Whether peer reviews are good, is a matter of who is reviewing. However it is possible to learn from both. Some though, are in a terrible rush, and the assesment not worth much. But Quizzes would be impossible and completely inappropiate for my line of study. Peer reviewing is a great responsibility, and the students should treat that fact with respect, though I think most people are too busy nowadays.

Whether peer reviews, come up bad or good, there are subjects where it is the only relevant way of grading, because there is no right or wrong way to do an assignment, no right or wrong answer, and the student would learn nothing from any other method of evaluating. Subjects where neither quizzes nor writen answers would suffice.