How exams can help students learn — a case for assessment for learning

3 min read

For many years, “assessment” described an evaluation process that was given at the end of the instructional process which measured the effectiveness of the instructions, held stakeholders accountable, and as a result, helped improve education. However, this assessment of learning has not been able to help all of our students. A large segment of the student population is not able to meet the high standards and ends up feeling hopeless to the point of giving up. In recent years, assessment for learning has been emphasized to address this issue.

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Are students learning what we’re teaching?

How can we use assessment to help students learn? How do we, the educators, know that what we are teaching is what students are learning? What are some of the ways we can use assessment to improve teaching and learning?

The following two cases demonstrate how assessment for learning can be implemented to serve as a tool for improving student motivation and informing instruction.

Case-1: Informing Instructions

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Dougherty Valley High School, CA

With a little more than two months left until the AP CS exam, 300 students at Dougherty Valley High School took an AP Computer Science A mock exam created by Popfizz Computer Science.

To simulate the real exam, students were given one hour and thirty minutes to go through a paper version of our 40 multiple choice question online exam. After the exam, a comprehensive report was created to help guide what to do as a next step.

The AP Computer Science teacher Albert Kim, a veteran teacher, and a former financial analyst, values data-driven approach in his teaching. Kim mentioned, “Education should be lifting, not filtering. I’ve been analyzing student data for years to make sure that I’m going in the right direction. This is a great resource that helps me get a more accurate snapshot of where my students are at and where I can take them in the next few months.”

Even though there were topics left to be covered, Kim found that the exam being introduced at this time had created a priming effect. It sparked curiosity in his students for what was to come. Kim mentioned, “Students had to try out questions that they haven’t learned yet. They had to deduce the meaning of unfamiliar code based on existing knowledge. Some of them came to me after the exam to let me know how they approached those questions. It primed them for the upcoming topics.”

“It was great that Popfizz worked closely with us to customize the process to fit our needs. I would gladly recommend it to other teachers who are looking for testing resources,” he added. Kim plans to administer the mock exams regularly, so that he can gather longitudinal data to further improve and calibrate his teaching.

  • School Profile: Dougherty Valley High School
  • Type: Public
  • State: California
  • District: San Ramon Valley Unified School District
  • Number of Students: 2,998
  • Average graduation rate: 98%

Case 2 — Improving Feedback

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Asia Pacific International School

AP CS Principles teacher Lee Jones is a computer science teacher at Asia Pacific International School located in Seoul, Korea. Lee formerly taught chemistry but is now the go-to-teacher at his campus for all computer science related topics. He teaches AP Computer Science A Java, AP Computer Science Principles, robotics and runs a maker space. Lee experimented with various tools to help students learn and decided to try the mock exam program for his AP Computer Science Principles course with Popfizz CS. The mock exam was customized to fit the 120 minutes of the block period.

After the exam was administered, a comprehensive report was provided. The report consists of:

  • Overall score distribution
  • Score quartile distribution
  • Questions students struggle with the most
  • Concepts students struggle with the most
  • Recommendations for the next steps
  • Answer solutions

Lee explained why he decided to run the mock exam program. “APIS’ approach to student learning is project-based learning. I wanted to learn how their experience building projects translate to AP CS Principles exam skills and find out what areas needed improvement.”

He added, “The report was the most valuable part of the program. The recommendations given are practical and actionable. I plan to work on them next week.”

Lee is currently pursuing a Doctorate degree in education and had much experience in implementing tools and processes for formative assessments. “I see a great value in this. Students need descriptive feedback so they can improve. Popfizz CS does a good job of providing this for both the teacher and the students. I plan to administer these exams every semester.”

  • School Profile: Asia Pacific International School
  • Type: Private, non-profit
  • State: Seoul, Hawaii
  • Number of Students: 350
  • Average graduation rate: 100%

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Creating tools for AFL takes time and resources. Not all classes have the luxury to develop this on their own. Popfizz Computer Science values assessment for learning (AFL) and designed the learning environment to accommodate the approach. All student work is auto-graded, tracked in real-time and provided with customized feedback for improvement at every step. Popfizz also provides lab exercises, quizzes, and exams so that the teachers can use for both summative and formative assessment. On top of that, a customized mock exam program is offered to select schools interested in working with us to help improve teaching and learning.

For more information on mock exam administration and reporting services, get in touch with us here:

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