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.
Using IBL as an
Alternative Assessment Techniques
Project NExT Panel at JMM 2013
Dana C. Ernst
Northern Arizona University
Email: [email protected]
• Assistant professor at Northern Arizona University.
• PhD from University of Colorado (2008).
• Project NExT Red08 Dot.
• Special Projects Coordinator for Academy of Inquiry-Based
• Spent 4 years at Plymouth State University prior to NAU.
• Number of IBL classes I had as a student: 0
What is assessment?
Well, Wikipedia says:
Assessment is the process of
documenting, usually in
measurable terms, knowledge,
skills, attitudes and beliefs.
Four aspects of assessment
1. Data to justify a student’s grade.
2. Feedback to student about their level of understanding
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
We can do better!
to students &
Data to support
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?!)
What is inquiry-based learning (IBL)?
• According to AIBL:
‣ IBL is a teaching method that engages students in sense-
‣ 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.
• 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
• Daily Homework graded on ✔-
system. What did they have done
• 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)
• The evidence in favor of IBL is compelling.
• If I spend 50 minutes talking, it’s unlikely I’ve done any
• 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
Keeping my mouth shut...and assessing
• Academy of Inquiry Based Learning
• 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