Education Leadership Conference

Are the course requirements clear? Do assignments address the material students need to know to successfully complete the course?

These are the kind of questions instructors should ask themselves in order to fairly assess undergraduate and graduate students, said APA President Gerald P. Koocher, PhD, at a 2006 ELC session on assessment. He and Jessica Henderson Daniel, PhD, director of psychology training at Children's Hospital, Boston, and a member of APA's Board of Directors, addressed the incorporation of ethical and diversity considerations into quality assessment of student learning outcomes.

Because grading--particularly in a sub-ject like psychology that assesses critical thinking--can often be subjective, it's important to establish some objective criteria, said Koocher. The key is to be consistent and to provide feedback and opportunities for students to self-assess their progress, he emphasized.

Koocher and Henderson Daniel shared some of the assignments they use to promote regular feedback and self-assessment. Koocher has his students do a weekly ethics case analysis in his ethics class. They e-mail it to him before class, and he puts all the anonymous responses together in one document he shares with the group so that students can learn from each other. Koocher grades the analyses on a pass/fail system so that students will know if they are on the right track.

Koocher also prepares students for the final exam by having them contribute a series of multiple-choice questions. The class discusses the questions, and Koocher draws from them for the test.

Henderson Daniel has all students in her course on social oppression e-mail her their opinions and questions after every class. She reads the responses back in the next class as part of the lecture and discussion, and as a way for her to gauge students' understanding of the material.

Finally, as preparation for the course's final paper, Henderson Daniel has students write a personal "psychoracial" history that incorporates class materials and describes how they perceive themselves racially.

--L. Meyers