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Express Yourself: The Benefits of Individual Assessment in Undergraduate Education
Unformatted Document Text:  2 In order to shed light on the connection between learning styles and performance in various assessment measures, this paper proceeds as follows. First, I will provide a summary of a student survey that asked students about (a) their learning styles through a series of questions related to their learning behavior, (b) their perception of their professors’ assessment methods, and (c) their self-declared preferences for how they would like to be tested. Secondly, I will report preliminary findings from an experiment that tested the impact of different learning styles on students’ performances in a variety of tests (ranging from multiple choice exams to essay exams). Finally, I will offer a range of assessment techniques that are easy to use in class and take into consideration the various “testing styles” of our students. Theoretical Background and Literature Review I first became interested in the question of “testing styles” as a graduate instructor at the University of Colorado when I repeatedly heard students complain that they “knew the answers, but still didn’t do well” or that “the test wasn’t fair.” At first I met these complaints with a stoic expression and the firm (and rather self-righteous) belief that such protests are merely the result of a failure to study properly for my exams. When one of my better students remarked on their inability to score as highly as they would have liked, however, I began to focus less on my students’ test-taking and more on my test-writing ability. From that point on, I began experimenting – rather informally – with giving my students choices on their exams. In my last two years as an instructor, I offered students the option of taking a multiple choice/short answer exam or an essay exam. Students were allowed to see both formats on the day of their exam, but only had to complete one of them. The two formats typically asked about the same exact course content, but gave students a choice in how they wanted to reproduce their knowledge of the material. While not statistically reliable, a comparison of grade distributions in my courses before and after my experimentation began reveals that students on average improved their scores by an average of just over four percentage points. While I cannot rule out external factors such as age, major, GPA, and other possible variables that might have affected the grade distribution from class to class, this increase in average grades – as well as my students’ enthusiastic response – was enough to warrant further investigation of the matter. In the literature, the question of assessment methods has arisen very frequently. In particular, the popular multiple choice format has come under attack more often than other tests.

Authors: Leithner, Anika.
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In order to shed light on the connection between learning styles and performance in
various assessment measures, this paper proceeds as follows. First, I will provide a summary of a
student survey that asked students about (a) their learning styles through a series of questions
related to their learning behavior, (b) their perception of their professors’ assessment methods,
and (c) their self-declared preferences for how they would like to be tested. Secondly, I will
report preliminary findings from an experiment that tested the impact of different learning styles
on students’ performances in a variety of tests (ranging from multiple choice exams to essay
exams). Finally, I will offer a range of assessment techniques that are easy to use in class and
take into consideration the various “testing styles” of our students.
Theoretical Background and Literature Review
I first became interested in the question of “testing styles” as a graduate instructor at the
University of Colorado when I repeatedly heard students complain that they “knew the answers,
but still didn’t do well” or that “the test wasn’t fair.” At first I met these complaints with a stoic
expression and the firm (and rather self-righteous) belief that such protests are merely the result
of a failure to study properly for my exams. When one of my better students remarked on their
inability to score as highly as they would have liked, however, I began to focus less on my
students’ test-taking and more on my test-writing ability.
From that point on, I began experimenting – rather informally – with giving my students
choices on their exams. In my last two years as an instructor, I offered students the option of
taking a multiple choice/short answer exam or an essay exam. Students were allowed to see both
formats on the day of their exam, but only had to complete one of them. The two formats
typically asked about the same exact course content, but gave students a choice in how they
wanted to reproduce their knowledge of the material. While not statistically reliable, a
comparison of grade distributions in my courses before and after my experimentation began
reveals that students on average improved their scores by an average of just over four percentage
points. While I cannot rule out external factors such as age, major, GPA, and other possible
variables that might have affected the grade distribution from class to class, this increase in
average grades – as well as my students’ enthusiastic response – was enough to warrant further
investigation of the matter.
In the literature, the question of assessment methods has arisen very frequently. In
particular, the popular multiple choice format has come under attack more often than other tests.


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