Using IBL as an assessment strategy

77d59004fef10003e155461c4c47e037?s=47 Dana Ernst
January 10, 2013

Using IBL as an assessment strategy

Since classroom assessment is used to determine a student's level of mastery, how can we vary our methods of assessment to accurately reflect the diversity of ways that students learn and understand the material? Traditional methods of assessment, such as exams, quizzes, and homework, may not accurately and robustly measure some students’ understanding. In this panel, we will propose alternative methods and discuss the following questions:
- What assessments exist besides the traditional ones and how can I use them for my course?
- How can I determine the validity of an alternative assessment?
- How can I develop my own alternative assessments?
- How can alternative assessments help me evaluate the effectiveness of a non-traditional classroom?

In my talk, I propose implementing inquiry-based learning (IBL) not only as a pedagogical approach but also as an assessment strategy.

This talk was given on January 10, 2013 as part of the Project NExT Alternative Assessment Techniques panel discussion at the 2013 Joint Mathematics Meetings.


Dana Ernst

January 10, 2013


  1. Using IBL as an assessment strategy Alternative Assessment Techniques Project

    NExT Panel at JMM 2013 Dana C. Ernst Northern Arizona University Email: Web:
  2. About me • Assistant professor at Northern Arizona University. •

    PhD from University of Colorado (2008). • Project NExT Red08 Dot. • Special Projects Coordinator for Academy of Inquiry-Based Learning (AIBL). • Spent 4 years at Plymouth State University prior to NAU. • Number of IBL classes I had as a student: 0
  3. What is assessment? Well, Wikipedia says: Assessment is the process

    of documenting, usually in measurable terms, knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs.
  4. Four aspects of assessment 1. Data to justify a student’s

    grade. 2. Feedback to student about their level of understanding and utility. 3. Feedback to instructor about students’ level of understanding and utility. 4. Feedback to instructor about their effectiveness. Typically, traditional assessments (e.g., points-based exams and homework) by themselves do a poor job of accomplishing items 2-3. We can do better!
  5. Optimization problem! Useful feedback to students & instructor Data to

    support grades Time required
  6. Issues to address before course begins • What is the

    purpose of this course? • Why are we really here? • What are the content goals? • What are the process goals? • How can we build in flexibility to adapt to information from assessment? (Otherwise, what’s the point?!)
  7. What is inquiry-based learning (IBL)? • According to AIBL: ‣

    IBL is a teaching method that engages students in sense- making activities. ‣ Instructor provides well-crafted problems/tasks requiring students to solve problems, conjecture, experiment, explore, create, & communicate. • Key ingredients: Students are responsible for ‣ guiding acquisition of knowledge, and ‣ validating ideas/arguments that are presented. • Example: Modified Moore Method, after R.L. Moore.
  8. • 5-10 “tasks” are assigned each class meeting (Daily Homework).

    Due at beginning of next class. • Students are responsible for digesting new material outside of class (readings and screencasts). • Nearly all class time devoted to students presenting or discussing proposed solutions/proofs to assigned tasks. • Students may request mini-lectures or screencasts. My approach to IBL • Students use felt tip pens to annotate work in light of discussion and presentations. • Daily Homework graded on ✔- system. What did they have done before class?
  9. • Weekly Homework: ‣ On week n+1, students submit m

    problems from Daily Homework from week n. ‣ Problems are to be well-written (usually typed). ‣ Students forced to reflect on previous week’s work by reviewing their notes from Daily Homework. ‣ Incorporates multiple rounds of revision. • Assign occasional self-reflections. How can they improve? How can I improve? • My job: ‣ Facilitate discussion & keep us on track ‣ Mr. Super Positive ‣ Cross my arms and say, “hmmm” My approach to IBL (continued)
  10. • The evidence in favor of IBL is compelling. •

    If I spend 50 minutes talking, it’s unlikely I’ve done any assessment. • During a typical day in an IBL course, the whole class session is spent on assessment. • When I used to predominately lecture, I was really just guessing at how effective I was being. Students lulled into thinking they understood. • Students presenting, discussing, and collaborating provides me and them with immediate feedback about how things are going. Keeping my mouth shut...and assessing
  11. Resources • Academy of Inquiry Based Learning • •

    Mentoring • Visiting Speakers Bureau • Small Grants available for developing IBL materials • Journal of Inquiry-Based Learning in Mathematics • • Refereed IBL materials • Legacy of R.L. Moore Conference • • Conference devoted to IBL and the Moore Method