Key Quote: “Once you get away from exams, it changes how students think about the course.”

Assessment challenge: How to get students to stop asking “will this be on the test?”

Although not entirely related to the online transition, Jerome had been moving away from tests and modifying his course for the last three semesters. These modifications came about because Jerome was frustrated with his first year course; he felt he was stuck in a mode of delivery that did not engage students. In reflecting on his course, Jerome felt that students were learning things in small, disconnected units, mirroring the disconnected units within his textbook. He felt students weren’t engaged, but he knew they should be. Geology is awesome! How could he make his students feel this too?

Solution: Replace all exams with rich, authentic project-based assessment

Jerome drew his inspiration from elements of the Unmarking and Team-based Learning workshops, and decided to replace all of the exams in his course with rich and authentic projects that replicate real-world applications of this material. In this way, he has shifted his students’ thinking from “is this on the test?” to “I wonder what happens if you build houses in one spot and not the other?” His first-year course now has 3 significant projects and every one builds on the last. Instead of information recall tests, students now engage by interacting with data, performing modeling, and creating spreadsheets. They revisit concepts consistently throughout the course and the projects, and apply those concepts in a variety of ways. Jerome creates authentic activities for students to engage in and they are now discovering, questioning, predicting and applying concepts in a way that is relevant to the field and to life. The textbook is used only as a reference and helps create a slow spiral of content in order to meet the learning outcomes.