Some new things I tried this semester, Part 2: Summative assessment

So in addition to trying out a new lesson plan concept this semester, I also screwed up my courage and asked a few of the faculty I worked with to share their students’ bibliographies from the papers or projects they worked on. This is part of a concerted effort on my part to add summative assessment to my wheelhouse, which has previously really only contained formative assessment (and, to be perfectly frank, really only contained minute papers).

I was pleasantly surprised at how the faculty responded to my request. I had put notifications on my calendar around the time that the assignments were due, so that I could remind them and ask/beg them to send them to me, but two of the three faculty I asked sent me the bibliographies without my even having to remind them!

So now I have these bibliographies, and I’m not sure what to do with them. I’ve read through them, and they’re fascinating, especially without the body of the paper they’re attached to.  I can pretty easily sort them into three piles: those students who “got it;” those students who mostly got it but also had some issues; and those students who are still unclear on the concept.  But without anything to compare them to (previous classes’ bibliographies, bibliographies from classes that didn’t get instruction — a control group, essentially) I don’t exactly know what to make of them.  I suppose I could just sit on them for a semester or a year until I work with these faculty again and have another group of bibliographies to compare them to, but that seems like a long time to wait — never mind the potential confounding factors in comparing the two classes.

One thing I did learn from one of the two classes, though, is that of the students who clearly “got it,” nearly all of them wound up citing journal articles from databases in their bibliographies. We talk about finding journal articles in the class session, but it gets a really quick, slapdash approach, and we spend a lot more time on other issues. Seeing how many of the successful bibliographies use articles makes me think that we need to switch things up and spend more time, and be a lot more deliberate, in our explanation and exploration of databases.  So that’s something I learned, at least!

Do you regularly look over bibliographies from classes you teach? How do you handle the process? What do you look for, and what have you learned from it?

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