Student Assessment in CBL

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Student Assessment in Case-Based Learning

Male teacher helps a student work on a computer. Implementing case-based learning in the classroom may be uncomfortable at first for the teacher who is not very familiar with the approach. Evaluating student performance may be even more uncomfortable.  It may be just as distressing to the students who are used to traditional multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank tests and for parents who may not understand how their student will be assessed on such open-ended assignments.

The assignments and the class instruction are more open-ended and student-centered than in traditional lecture instruction, but with careful lesson planning and preparation case-based learning assessments can be accurate, efficient, and fair.

The most important strategy in effectively assessing student achievement is to establish standards of expectation at the beginning of the lesson or unit. This should be done for every type of instruction that results in assessment, so it is certainly not unique to case-based learning. It may, however, be even more essential to reducing the anxiety of a very different approach (if this is new to your classroom).

As with any instructional strategy, it is important to identify and align the learning objectives and assessments before you begin classroom implementation. Assessment should involve evaluating more than factual recall; it should include assessing student application of knowledge and skills to the ill-structured problem presented in the case, collaborative skills of working in a team, and communication of science principles.

The table below defines the learning characteristic, the standard, and some criteria for assessing case-based learning outcomes. (Source:  Wasserman, S. (1994). Introduction to case method teaching: A guide to the galaxy. New York: Teachers College Press.) (Although this table was specifically designed for case-based learning assessments, it can be adapted for problem-based learning assessments as well.)

The table presents concrete evaluative factors to consider. Some teachers may want to choose the characteristic and then use a standard rubric form in which incremental ratings are assigned and descriptions of standards are given.  No matter what you form you choose for assessment, it is a good idea to review the form with your students prior to their work.

Case-based Learning Standards and Criteria for Student Assessment

Impact Standard Criteria
Student Behavior Intellectual Development Quality of thinking
Skills Communication, research and interpersonal skills
Attitudes Personal perspectives, beliefs and values, self-evaluation
Generative Activities Projects Evidence of research; analysis of information; organization & layout; creativity and originality
Written & Oral Presentations Organization; fresh perspective; use of examples; development of ideas; use of facts to substantiate arguments; quality of thought and analysis
Field Study Hypothesis; systematic data collection; relevance of conclusions; identification of relationships
Analytical Activities Making Comparisons Ability to zero in on significant factors; extensive comparison
Applying Principals Recognize principles or rules that apply; logical connection of principles and situations
Evaluating and Judging Specific, reasonable, sound and appropriate criteria; clear relationship
Interpreting Comprehension of big ideas; analyses focused on important meaning; articulation of importance; discernment of implicit content and making inferences; speculation presented with caution
Summarizing Reflection of key ideas; succinct, accurate representation of key issues; articulate and intelligible summaries
Classifying Connected attributes; larger purpose; enable new meaning; beyond the obvious
Decision-Making Articulated values behind choices; humanly sound values; informed choice using best available data; carefully thought out
Creating and Inventing Cognitive risks; truly new, fresh and imaginative; appropriate to demands of the task
Designing Investigations Frame problem for thoughtful investigation; logical, thoughtful investigation plans; data will yield information about the problem; viability; built-in evaluation; clear relationship between plan and problem

Source for table:
Wasserman, S. (1994). Introduction to case method teaching: A guide to the galaxy. New York: Teachers College Press