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Alternative Assessments to Proctored Exams

In rapidly evolving or emergency remote learning situations, proctored or formal exams may not be the best method of assessment to measure student learning, especially if students are stressed, do not have access to consistent internet, or are missing some of their course materials. You may want to consider other ways, beyond those traditional exams, to allow students to demonstrate their learning during these challenging times.

Alternative assessments can offer unique benefits beyond traditional exams, especially in assessing higher levels of student learning and their application of knowledge.

As you are choosing assessment strategies, consider the following:

  • Do you want to measure your students’ understanding of content knowledge, their ability to apply that knowledge in a range of situations, or their ability to build on what they have learned to create new knowledge?
  • To what degree do you want students to reflect on their own learning process through the assessment that you give them?
  • Which of the specific learning objectives for your course will the assessment be measuring?

See below for a range of different ways that you can assess student learning that do not include high-stakes exams.

Ask students to share their knowledge of course content with an audience different than you as their instructor. For example, by writing an op-ed, drafting a letter to a family member, creating a fact sheet for the general public, or designing a public service announcement. Each of these options allow students to share what they know in creative ways.

Ask students to write their own exam questions and then respond. By asking students to write their own exam questions, you are offering them an opportunity to engage in synthesis and identify the most important elements of the course. Have students submit their exam questions, vet them yourself, and then redistribute them across the other students in the course as a take-home assessment option.

Ask students to write a guide to success in the course for future students. In this assignment, students are asked to identify the most important concepts for their peers to learn in the future, why those concepts are important, and how they are related to one another. This kind of assessment tests a student’s ability to prioritize information, communicate what they have learned, and to share the relationships between a range of course topics and content.

Ask students to create an assignment that would be a “capstone” for their learning in a unit or for the semester. Allowing students the opportunity to create their own personalized assignment to demonstrate their progress toward the course student learning outcomes provides them a creative way to apply their learning. You may ask your students to create the assignment, complete the assignment, and/or justify why the assignment is a good capstone.

Ask students to complete assignments that apply their course learning to the current COVID-19 situation. Allowing students to use the theories, methods, findings, and other content from fields as diverse as business, psychology, biology, sociology, communication, etc., provides them a unique opportunity to process their current experiences through the lens of your course.

Ask students to demonstrate their learning in ways that leverage virtual connection. While students are engaging in physical distancing, they may feel isolated, and this may adversely impact their learning. Having them engage with other students and with you to demonstrate their learning will provide both better social connections and opportunities for feedback. Try asking students to present on a topic to a virtual audience, or to record a video of a presentation to be shared with the class asynchronously.

Need more assistance with thinking through alternative assessments? Find additional ideas from UC Berkeley and Indiana University. The staff at the K-State Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) are ready to brainstorm with you about a range of alternative assessment methods that will help you to measure your course learning objectives. You can contact the TLC staff by calling 785-532-7828 or emailing teachingandlearning@k-state.edu.