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Enhancing Student Success Using Flexible Assessment

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2019 ASEE PNW Section Conference


Corvallis, Oregon

Publication Date

March 20, 2019

Start Date

March 20, 2019

End Date

March 22, 2019

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Paper Authors


bryan james mealy Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

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Bryan Mealy is a luthier as well as an associate professor at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, California.

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The primary responsibilities of instructors are to help students learn the course material and to assess what they’ve learned. These two responsibilities present somewhat of a problem because the more time instructors spend assessing students reduces the amount of time instructors can spend directly helping students. This notion is particularly important in flipped-type course, which is designed to maximize in-class learning. In designing and preparing course presentations, instructors inherently must delegate limited class meeting times between helping assessing students and helping students learn. Assessing student achievement using quizzes and exams is not a learning experience, but many students place a high value on such assessment techniques distributed throughout the course as “inspiration” for remaining current with course material.

This paper describes our continued work with Flexible Assessment (FAST) techniques where we give students some flexibility in the weighting of various assessed items. This paper builds upon our previous work where students were given the option at the beginning of the quarter to choose between final grade calculations based on weekly quizzes and final exams, or having no quizzes with more heavily weighted final exams. Our new approach allows students to choose to take a weekly quiz or not; each quiz a student takes reduces the final exam weighting by a fixed percentage. Our new approach addresses the primary student complaint in our previous approach, which was that students made the quiz vs. non-quiz decision at the beginning of the course and continue with that choice for the entire course.

Our new FAST approach treats student assessment with a more holistic approach with an overall goal of enhancing student success in the course. The flexibility associated with our approach recognizes that students generally have a wide range of academic responsibilities, which are typically non-flexible in nature. Our intention with this approach is to allow students to effectively prioritize their academic schedules without penalizing them for not having adequate time to prepare for a schedule quiz. In essence, this approach gives students a slight amount of wiggle-room in their task of juggling challenging academic schedules.

mealy, B. J. (2019, March), Enhancing Student Success Using Flexible Assessment Paper presented at 2019 ASEE PNW Section Conference, Corvallis, Oregon.

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