The Compounding Effects of Assessment: How Our Failure to Coordinate Formative Assessments May Impact Their Validity
34 Pages Posted: 21 May 2018 Last revised: 12 Mar 2019
Date Written: May 8, 2018
Under the ABA’s new directive that formative assessments be added to our curriculum, the pacing (and perhaps total workload) of our semesters may be altering without our having a sophisticated understanding of how to make those alterations. The middle of the semesters, which have traditionally been the playground for the Socratic Method and for legal writing assignments, may now be filled with a variety of assessment activities, and some of them may dominate students’ time in a way that impacts students’ ability to devote attention to their other classes.
This article is intended to guide law faculties as we work to create a diverse, coordinated culture of assessment that improves student learning and generates data with validity that will inform our students, our teaching, and also future employers. After this article defines and describes the promise and complexity of formative assessment in Part I, it provides evidence in Part II that a failure to create a deeply coordinated formative assessment system will lessen the validity of the entire system. Finally, Part III provides best practices for creating a valid, deeply coordinated formative assessment system. When we each create assessments that justify the use of students’ time, that allow for transparent learning linked with clear learning goals, and that encourage student autonomy and confidence, we are more likely to design assessments that will improve rather than detract from student’s learning in other courses.
Keywords: assessment, law teaching and learning, legal education
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