How frequent and useful feedback benefits student learning

GIVING FEEDBACK: In the following video from the CIRTL online course “Introduction to STEM Teaching”,  Dr. Angela Little from the University of California Berkeley and a group of graduate students from the University of Colorado Boulder discuss their experiences with useful vs unhelpful feedback, describing the importance of frequent feedback to students from peers and instructors. To view the full module with additional information about assessment, click here.

What is formative assessment?

Formative vs. Summative (sometimes called “Auditive”) Assessment:

How will you assess student learning throughout the quarter (“formative assessment”) and at the end (“summative assessment”)?

The purpose of an assessment is to provide an opportunity for the student to evidence that they have learned what they were supposed to. Using formative assessment means that over time they have the opportunity to first make mistakes and then learn from those mistakes. This is more aligned with a “mastery” approach – basically designing assessments so students eventually will master the competency.  A summative/auditive assessment is one where you are looking back at what they should have learned, assessing them on it, and then moving on to something new. Both can be used effectively.


Fink, L. Dee “A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning: This workbook style guide will walk you through the different elements of backwards course design, including designing for assessment of student learning.

  • Integrate active learning techniques during lecture, discussion and lab.
  • Have drafts due throughout the quarter
  • Have students grade one another’s work using structured, rubric-based protocols
    • CCLE has a “Workshop” assignment, in which each student submission can automatically be assigned to a few other students to grade based on a rubric. The students who are assigning the grade get more points for assigning similar grades to the same work (i.e. there is a reward for grading carefully).
    • Use Calibrated Peer Review to help students learn not only how to grade one another, but what good examples look like.

How to Assess Students Based on Mastery of Material

FEATURED RESOURCE: In October 2018, the Associate Dean of UCLA’s School of Engineering issued a memorandum with guidance on assessment and grading. In particular, pages 5-7 provide guidance on course design, assigning grades based on content mastery rather than relative performance, and why and how to clearly state the grading policy in the syllabus.

Grading Sytems UNCC: Summary of advantages and disadvantages of different grading systems

Schinske and Tanner: Teaching more by grading less or differently

VALUE Rubrics: These AAC&U rubrics include detailed language for describing and assessing skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, and quantitative literacy. Adapting such rubrics can help you build better assignments, while being more clear about the skills you want your students to develop and demonstrate.

NY Times Article: Why We Should Stop Grading on a Curve

Hughes, B., Hurtado, S. & Eagan, M. K. (Nov 2014). Driving Up or Dialing Down Competition in Introductory STEM Courses: Individual and Classroom Level Factors. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Washington, DC, November 20-22, 2014.: Research finding norm-referenced grading associated with higher student perceptions of competition; Faculty can “dial down” competitiveness by structuring collaboration into courses.

Fink, L. Dee “A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning: This workbook style guide will walk you through the different elements of backwards course design, including designing for assessment of student learning.

There are companies such as, which allow faculty and TAs to do online grading using scanned material, especially to grade exams. The clearly applied rubrics are consistent with criterion-based grading.

Some faculty also use such a system to grade handwritten student work (e.g. mathematical calculations or exam-like homework problems). Here is an app you can share with your students to scan their homework into a pdf:

Assessments Repositories

Repository of reliable and validated assessment instruments and references for existing evaluation tools used to measure changes in student learning or student attitudes.

The 2010 User-Friendly Handbook for Project Evaluation published by NSF

Online Evaluation Resource Library – (OERL)

Concept Inventories (FC, Bioliteracy Project, Bibliography, Q4B)
Please inquire with CEILS Director about specific instruments available to UCLA faculty.

List of Concept Inventories

Other Biology Concept Inventories

Validated assessment tools for Physics, Astronomy, and Mathematics

Critical Thinking Assessment Test – (CAT)
The CAT Instrument is a unique tool designed to assess and promote the improvement of critical thinking and real-world problem solving skills.

Field-tested Learning Assessment Guide – (FLAG)
The FLAG offers broadly applicable, self-contained modular classroom assessment techniques (CATs) and discipline-specific tools for STEM instructors interested in new approaches to evaluating student learning, attitudes and performance.

Student Assessment of their Learning Gains – (SALG)
SALG is a developed and tested modular curricula and pedagogy for undergraduate chemistry courses.

Development of Biological Experimental Design Concept Inventory – (BEDCI)

This CI can be used to diagnose specific examples of non-expert-like thinking in students and to evaluate the success of teaching strategies that target conceptual changes.

Conceptual Tests in the Physical Sciences
This is a collection of resources that gather together information about published diagnostic tests or instruments that probe conceptual understanding, in various topic areas relating to (but not restricted to) the physical sciences.

The Experimental Design Ability Test – (EDAT)
The EDAT measures the level of students’ understanding towards what constitutes a good experimental design.

The Laboratory Course Assessment Survey (LCAS)
The LCAS was developed for Course-Based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) to measure students’ perceptions of three design feautures of Biology lab courses.

Development and Validation of a Rubric for Diagnosing Students’ Experimental Design Knowledge and Difficulties – (REDI)
The development of this rubric assesses aquired knowledge about the processes of science and helps diagnose the key difficulties of student understandings.

Results Analysis Concept Inventory
The concept inventory was created to assess students’ comprehension about data analysis. These skills are necessary to make informed decision and reliable conclusions, going beyond applications in science towards the use of these skills in every day life.

Developing a Test of Scientific Literacy Skills (TOSLS)
TOSLS is designed to assess the scientific literacy skills that are necessary in a STEM field.

SPARST, multiple choice
While it is still in development, this online, multiple choice test is designed to assess reasoning skills, data analysis, and science communication.

In-Class Concept Questions (CLASS)
This report examiles the role of conceptual questions that students answer using personal response systems or “clickers” to promote student leaning

Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CURE)
Initiated in 2013, CUREnet aims to address topics, problems, and opportunities inherent to to integrating research experiences into undergraduate courses.

Science Motivation Questionnaire
Designed to give education researchers and science instructors insight into what factors impact how students determination to complete their science degree.

Survey of Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE)
SURE exmamines the hypothesis that undergraduate research enhances the education experience of science undergraduates and retains talented students to careers in science.

Undergraduate Research Student Self-Assessment
The URSSA focuses on assessing student learning from undergraduate research, rather than whether they like it. The assessment looks at research outcomes such as evidence-based thinking, skills such as lab work and communication, conceptual knowledge, linkages among ideas in their field and with other fields, and preparation and clarity towards a career or educational path after graduating.

Perceived Cohesion (Bollen and Hoyle)
This theoretical definition of perceived cohesion says individuals’ perceptions of their own cohesion to a group has two dimensions: sense of belonging and feelings of morale. The study proposes that group members’ perceptions of cohesion are important for the behavior of the individual as well as the group as a whole.

Sense of Community Index (Chipuer)
This paper outlines the psychological sense of community (PSC)  in the neighborhood for adults and adolescents, and workplace PSC for adults, using true/false and three-point response formats.

Views of Nature of Science Questionnaire (VNOS)
The VNOS couples survey responses with individualized interviews to understand student perceptions about research and science education.

Views about Science Survey
This survey aims to understand the preconceptions students have towards science concepts before they learn them in the classroom through understanding the epistemology of science and its social context.

The Project Ownership Survey: Measuring Differences in Scientific Inquiry Experiences (POS) (Hauner et al.)
Project ownership is one of the psycho-social factors involved in student retention in the sciences. This instrument is designed to measure project ownership.

Self-authorship (Creanerm Baxter-Magolda)
This instrument measures factors that influence individuals’ construction of knowledge, identities, and relationships.

Grit Scale (Duckworth)
The Grit Scale measures trait-level perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Among adolescents, the Grit–S longitudinally predicted GPA and, inversely, hours watching television.

The Role of Efficacy and Identity in Science Career Commitment Among Underrepresented Minority Students (Chemers)
This instrument examines the role of efficacy and identity and its role in student pursuit of career in science.

Using the Multiple Lenses of Identity: Working with Ethnic and Sexual Minority College Students (Estrada)
This instrument investigates contexts that influence ethnic and sexual minority self-concept.