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Assessment Analysis

What lessons might be gleaned from revisiting an assessment?

I created this Kahoot! assessment a year ago as a way for my students to get some practice reps in with both conditional concepts and syntax. As an assessment tool, Kahoot! is rather limited–only multiple choice questions with annoying character limits; but for a new teacher, the limits can be surprisingly beneficial.

Screenshot of Kahoot Quiz on conditionals

Assessment Theory

It’s difficult for multiple choice assessments to be anything other than vehicles for behavioralist theory, no? I clearly remember thinking that my students needed practice reading and recognizing conditional concepts, which is behavioralist through and through.

However, Kahoot! assessments can be used in a more formative way than one would think: after students give their answers to a single question, they are shown how many students answered the question correctly. In my classroom, after each answer was revealed, I took the time to explain all the answers, both the correct ones and the incorrect ones to address any misconceptions students might have had. Although, even better would have been to have students explain to each other why they chose the correct answer, making the assessment more of a social constructivist tool by allowing students to learn from each other.

Assessment Assumptions

I made a few assumptions in this assessment:

  1. Students are familiar with pseudocode or the use of english language phrases as substitutes for coding syntax.
  2. Students are familiar with python conditional syntax.
  3. Students have experience with parental limitations on student behavior at home; and in particular with TV.

Hmm.

The juxtaposition of those first two assumptions made me realize that understanding coding concepts through pseudocode may be more important than memorizing coding syntax of a specific language. Pseudocode, if understood fully by students, can be a flexible way for students to mentally map coding concepts and apply them to specific programming languages that they learn! Learning coding can then be reduced to a two step process.

  1. Learning coding concepts through pseudocode, then
  2. Understanding how to convert pseudocode into programming syntax.

This may ultimately prove to be a better but also more difficult way to teach students coding.

The third assumption may need to be corrected. The school district I teach in has a historically strong hippie vibe, so there’s no guarantee students have experience with parental limitations. Similarly, there is no guarantee that students have a television at home. I will have to come up with at least one other more apropos example.

Three Beliefs

Referring back to my previous post about my three beliefs about assessment, this assessment seems to reflect those beliefs:

Assessment can show teacher effectiveness as well as student understanding. To be honest, I didn’t use the assessment results to make adjustments to my practice! But, looking just now, I discovered Kahoot Reports on assessments given, and there are metrics on what questions students struggled with, who struggled the most, and what percentage of students got what right. I can definitely use those metrics to develop additional followup questions or assignments.

Students can get an answer correct, but still not understand the underlying concepts. Some of my assessment was designed to uncover this behavior. For example, question 13 about variables might have shown that a student successfully memorized variable syntax, but it is question 2 that should have revealed whether a student understood what a variable was for in the first place. The assessment could definitely be improved to systematically assess conceptual understanding of the other conditional concepts like boolean expressions and branching.

Feedback fosters more substantial learning than a grade. I believe explaining the answers as the students took the assessment provided the feedback they need to develop understanding.

Conclusion

Analyzing an assessment I designed after the fact was an extremely useful exercise. During the initial design, I remember simply struggling to decide what individual questions and answers should be on the assessment and did not have the wherewithal to consider the theory and assumptions behind my assessment. The analysis above will allow me to create a greatly improved second version!

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