Universities use several tools to assess the academic progress of undergraduate students. Examples of these tools include essays, projects, final examinations, research papers, and reports (Brookhart & Nitko 2008). Many institutions combine several of the aforementioned tools because none of them addresses all learning objectives. Each type of tool assesses a different type of learning outcome. One of the most common tools used is essays. Essays are used as assessment tools by universities because they play diagnostic, formative, and summative roles (Dunn et al. 2010).
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They help teachers to determine the baseline ability of each student. They also serve as a method of assessing the strengths and weaknesses of learners and provide feedbacks regarding the areas that need improvement. Finally, they help teachers to identify the level of academic performance achieved by individual students. All courses have learning objectives that determine the teaching methods used. Assignments help teachers to determine whether students comprehended the concepts covered in various topics as well as evaluate the level of skills and knowledge acquired (Brookhart & Nitko 2008).
The feedback obtained from the essays is then used to create teaching strategies that capitalize on the students’ strengths and that aim to improve their weaknesses (Schwartz & Webb 2014). Essays are graded using scoring rubrics that are linked to learning objectives, which are given to students at the start of all course units. These assessment tools help teachers to evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching styles. For instance, high grades indicate that the teaching styles used are effective in imparting knowledge and skills. Poor grades indicate that the teaching methods are ineffective and need to be changed, improved, or replaced with better ones (Dunn et al. 2010).
Projects help to impart students with practical skills that are tied to the theoretical knowledge attained in class (Swaffield 2008). Therefore, they provide a channel through which teachers provide complete learning experiences to students. In addition they encourage the development of thinking, writing, reasoning, synthesis, analysis, and research skills (Dunn et al. 2010).
Assignments and conventional examinations have different levels of effectiveness with regard to their use as learning tools. Final examinations are grouped under summative assessment methods because they aim to evaluate the overall degree of learning achieved by students after completing a certain course. Conventional examinations only indicate the extent to which a student has comprehended academic material offered in a specific course unit (Schwartz & Webb 2014).
They do not have room for feedback that is necessary for improvement or evaluation of learning methods. In contrast, assignments are effective learning methods because they evaluate the extent to which the aims and objectives of a course unit have been attained. Instructors can provide feedback, evaluate the effectiveness of learning methods, and identify the strengths and weaknesses of learners in different areas (Dunn et al. 2010). Assessment tests are more effective learning methods compared to conventional examinations. They are used as development learning tools that provide constructive feedback, commentaries, and evaluation of students’ comprehension levels of academic material (Schwartz & Webb 2014).
In addition, they improve the reading and writing skills of students. Sustained writing through completion of academic tasks increases students’ learning abilities, engagement, and thinking skills (Schwartz & Webb 2014). Class activities require students to use several skills simultaneously. For instance, the completion of an essay requires critical and creative thinking, analysis, evaluation, and synthesis of academic material (Swaffield 2008). Finally, assignments help students to gain problem-solving and research skills. In order to complete assignments successfully, students engage their thinking and research skills. These activities promote independent learning, which is an important skill for undergraduate students to acquire.
Brookhart, S & Nitko, A 2008, Assessment and Grading in Classrooms, Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall, New York. Web.
Dunn, D, McCarthy, M, Baker, S, & Halonen, J 2010, Using Quality Benchmarks for Assessing and Developing Undergraduate Programs, John Wiley & Sons, New York. Web.
Schwartz, P & Webb, G 2014, Assessment: Case Studies, Experience, and Practice, Routledge, New York. Web.
Swaffield, S 2008, Unlocking Assessment: Understanding for Reflection and Application, Routledge, New York. Web.