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Express Yourself: The Benefits of Individual Assessment in Undergraduate Education
Unformatted Document Text:  1 Express Yourself! The Utility of Individual Assessment in Undergraduate Education Anika Leithner, Ph.D. California Polytechnic State University Introduction Many learning theories suggest that learning is best conceived as a process, not an outcome. While I readily agree with the notion, the fact remains that assessing students’ performances is a large part of our role as educators, and an important one at that. In addition, many of us are faced with university administrators who pressure us to produce results, to streamline assessment, and to make grading more systematic and transparent. In response to such pressures, the trend has been to develop more standardized tests, as they presumably offer the same conditions – and thus fair treatment – to all students, objective scoring, and effective assessment of knowledge. Within standardized tests, it is primarily the multiple-choice format that has become the most popular (cf. Aiken, 1987). This paper is based on the assumption that standardized testing in any form, while expedient, does not take into consideration the unique differences among our students and therefore does not adequately measure whether or not learning has occurred. In particular, I propose that there is an observable connection between student’s learning style and his/her “testing style.” Many of us are well aware of the vast literature on learning styles (e.g. Myers, 1962; Schroder et. al., 1967; Paivio, 1971; Kolb, 1976; Messick, 1976; Dunn & Dunn, 1978; Keefe, 1979; Riding & Sadler-Smith, 1992; Larsen, 1992; Jonassen & Grabowski, 1993; Biggs, 1993; Vermunt, 1996) and have adjusted our lectures and seminars to include pictures and graphs for the more visual learners, to have hands-on exercises for those who “learn by doing,” and various other tricks. Interestingly, despite all this effort, we still tend to rely on the same (standardized?) tests to assess student learning 1 . The main question this paper addresses is: If students have different learning styles, does it not stand to reason that their preferred method of reproducing that knowledge also differs? 1 Note: This is not to deny that there are many creative assessment techniques out there being used. Based on multiple conversations with colleagues across the country, however, it seems to me that this is a slow process that is still largely restricted to more teaching-oriented universities.

Authors: Leithner, Anika.
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Express Yourself! The Utility of Individual Assessment in Undergraduate Education
Anika Leithner, Ph.D.
California Polytechnic State University
Introduction
Many learning theories suggest that learning is best conceived as a process, not an
outcome. While I readily agree with the notion, the fact remains that assessing students’
performances is a large part of our role as educators, and an important one at that. In addition,
many of us are faced with university administrators who pressure us to produce results, to
streamline assessment, and to make grading more systematic and transparent. In response to such
pressures, the trend has been to develop more standardized tests, as they presumably offer the
same conditions – and thus fair treatment – to all students, objective scoring, and effective
assessment of knowledge. Within standardized tests, it is primarily the multiple-choice format
that has become the most popular (cf. Aiken, 1987). This paper is based on the assumption that
standardized testing in any form, while expedient, does not take into consideration the unique
differences among our students and therefore does not adequately measure whether or not
learning has occurred. In particular, I propose that there is an observable connection between
student’s learning style and his/her “testing style.”
Many of us are well aware of the vast literature on learning styles (e.g. Myers, 1962;
Schroder et. al., 1967; Paivio, 1971; Kolb, 1976; Messick, 1976; Dunn & Dunn, 1978; Keefe,
1979; Riding & Sadler-Smith, 1992; Larsen, 1992; Jonassen & Grabowski, 1993; Biggs, 1993;
Vermunt, 1996) and have adjusted our lectures and seminars to include pictures and graphs for
the more visual learners, to have hands-on exercises for those who “learn by doing,” and various
other tricks. Interestingly, despite all this effort, we still tend to rely on the same (standardized?)
tests to assess student learning
1
. The main question this paper addresses is: If students have
different learning styles, does it not stand to reason that their preferred method of reproducing
that knowledge also differs?
1
Note: This is not to deny that there are many creative assessment techniques out there being used. Based on
multiple conversations with colleagues across the country, however, it seems to me that this is a slow process that is
still largely restricted to more teaching-oriented universities.


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