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Classroom Assessment Techniques
Student Assessment of Learning Gains

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Cartoon image of a kitty cat.  Cat is animated on mouse over with the word C-A-T appearing. Elaine Seymour, Douglas Wiese, Anne-Barrie Hunter
Bureau of Sociological Research
University of Colorado at Boulder


Sue Daffinrud
LEAD Center
University of Wisconsin-Madison smdaffin@facstaff.wisc.edu

Sue Daffinrud

"...I taught a mathematics class for pre-service elementary education teachers that used almost no lecture and relied heavily on the students to teach themselves with some instructor guidance. The purpose of the class was to move these students away from thinking that mathematics was the domain of mathematicians...The pedagogical approach of this class was not well-suited for the standard end-of-course evaluation form...Had I known of SALG at the time, I would have jumped at using it...my experience as an evaluator for higher education programs has taught me that students can provide a very valuable perspective on their own learning..."

The SALG instrument can spotlight those elements in the course that best support student learning and those that need improvement. This instrument is a powerful tool, can be easily individualized, provides instant statistical analysis of the results, and facilitates formative evaluation throughout a course. Instructors feel that typical classroom evaluations offer poor feedback, and this dissatisfaction is heightened when these instruments are used for promotion decisions. We've found that questions about how well instructors performed their teaching role and about "the class overall" yield inconclusive results. We believe all of these shortcomings are addressed with the SALG.

The SALG is a web-based instrument consisting of statements about the degree of "gain" (on a five-point scale) which students perceive they've made in specific aspects of the class. Instructors can add, delete, or edit questions. The instrument is administered on-line, and typically takes 10-15 minutes. A summary of results is instantly available in both statistical and graphical form.


Instructor Preparation Time: Time is needed to: clarify and prioritize class learning objectives and their related activities that the teacher wishes to be evaluated; check which existing questions express these and which need to be edited or added. No instructor time is needed to administer the survey, collect, and analyze the resultant data.
Preparing Your Students: Time should be spent explaining the nature of the instrument to students, how to access and complete it.
Class Time: Instrument can be give in or out of class. It takes 10-15 minutes to complete the sample instrument.
Disciplines: Appropriate for all.
Class Size: Appropriate for all.
Special Classroom/Technical Requirements: Students need access to the web.
Individual or Group Involvement: Normally individual, but could also be adapted for use with small groups.
Analyzing Results: Data analysis is performed by the program. Instructors receive summary data, averages, and standard deviations (by question or sub-question and cross-tabulations for any pair of questions).
Other Things to Consider: To insure meaningful results, student responses must be guaranteed anonymity. The instrument may be administered as a final student classroom evaluation instrument: several chemistry departments have adopted it for this purpose. It may also be used at any point in the semester for mid-course corrections to classroom teaching methods. Demographic data may be included for correlation with gender, major, or ethnicity.

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