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Assessment of Learning in the Time of COVID-19

A message from Associate Provost for Curriculum and Assessment Lou Slimak

As we begin another semester in which we all will be dealing with a range of pandemic-related issues, it is worth reasserting that now, more than ever, assessment of learning in our courses and academic programs should be focused on evaluating what our students are (and aren’t) learning in a way that allows us to improve that learning.

I can’t think of another situation in which understanding what, how, and how well our students are learning is more relevant than what we are continuing to collectively experience in higher education, after nearly two years of disruption. Faculty have had to rethink almost everything about their pedagogy.

In addition, many of our undergraduates have never experienced a “normal” academic semester, and all of our students have had their learning impacted in some way by the prolonged pandemic. We must continue to be compassionate to the fact that students are likely to be even more anxious and perhaps less prepared than ever before.

Given all of that, here is some advice to consider:

It’s all about the outcomes. 
  • Go back to your learning outcomes, where you’ve articulated the learning you expect from students in your courses and in your programs. Make sure they still accurately reflect what students need to learn. There’s no point in overworking yourself or your students to learn something that’s not central to the course or to their program of study.
Make a change (or two).
  • Focus on what’s most important and be flexible everywhere you possibly can be – not only with your students but with yourself as well. As an instructor, you know best what the learning priorities in your courses are. Focus your assessment on those priorities, even if that means coming up with different or even multiple ways to assess the same thing. Don’t feel obligated to use the same assessment approach just because it has worked before or to cover everything you have in the past. Give yourself the freedom to assess different individuals and different groups of students in different but equitable ways and in ways that are compassionate to both your students and yourself.
Phone a friend. 
  • There are a lot of resources at WVU to support you. I encourage you to take advantage of as many of those resources as you can and to let any of the Provost's team know if there are additional resources that would benefit you or your students. With regards to assessment, feel free to reach out to me or Robynn Shannon, Director of Assessment Support, for guidance. And always remember that the WVU Teaching and Learning Commons has regular event and programs, peer support of teaching, and individual and group consultations on all aspects of teaching, course design, and classroom technology. They have also pulled together several outstanding online resources for faculty, one on contingency planning for your courses, one on providing reasonable accommodations for students who are impacted by COVID-19 including what do with assessments and assignments, and one on rethinking assessment of learning. Together, we are all here to help our students learn.