When most instructors think about assessing student learning, what often comes to mind are tests, quizzes, and assignments. While these are certainly useful tools for motivating students to learn the material and for assessing student learning, there is another method to consider integrating into your approach.
Students generally begin a course with very little knowledge of a topic. They’re aware of the fact that they know very little. When the course has finished, they’re much more knowledgeable, but it’s hard to determine exactly how much they have learned — or which topics they learned well, and which are still unclear.
One way of assessing student learning is to ask a series of questions early in the course, and then repeat that same series of questions at the end of the course. By comparing the before-class and after-class answers, you can determine exactly which topics students learned well and which are still foggy.
To implement this method, you’ll need to start by outlining the key concepts of your course. Ask several big-picture questions about each topic that you feel will effectively evaluate whether a student understands that topic. Administer this assessment at one of the first classes, and again at one of the last. You could also choose to use this approach on a topic-by-topic basis. Ask a series of questions before each unit and again after each unit.