Post-Class Post: Evaluation

In class this week we talked about evaluation at length. Some activities included taking a survey, sorting the survey questions into groups, and then also listening to a lecture about formative assessments.

I had a hard time really seeing the difference between formative assessment and summative assessment at a larger more theoretical level. What exactly makes something formative and something summative? I heard a lot in class that the difference was context and incentives mostly. Summative assements are for a grade and at the end of a project or process. But I did not really understand how it make it different from a methodological level. If I give you a survey and tell you this is the first survey of the rest of your life, does that make it a formative assessment? Are the questions different, and how? There is also still the sticky situation that Librarians still do not give grades. Is the concept of formative assessment useful when you cannot create a true summative assessment in your field? Perhaps this is a more helpful way of looking at evaluation for teachers than for librarians.

Though we talked about evaluation for almost two hours, I felt very unsure at the end of it what I was supposed to do with the information at the end. Unlike our screencast conversation, very little of it was prescriptive. We looked at some questions that people ask, but we didn’t really talk about dos and don’ts. I understand I wasn’t supposed to change scales, but I sort of already knew that from having taken surveys from before. We learned that it was bad form to do a long survey with multiple parts, but that seems like it was more of a “plan ahead” question where you allow users the time to fill out the survey you want. But we really didn’t talk much about methodology, about research questions, about aims and objectives and how those different aims and objects would affect methodology. As an aside, there is of course a rich literature source in the social sciences which I wished we had used instead of focusing on how teachers do it.

I plan on doing survey assessment during my future career on multiple levels, both as tools of assessment of myself and as a tool of assessment of my users and theirs needs. I hope in the future we go through more methods for pooling assessment in more details in later classes.

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About Ilana the Librarian

I am an aspiring librarian at the University of Michigan.
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3 Responses to Post-Class Post: Evaluation

  1. Trolling…

    Formative is assessment that you do in the moment, during the course of the unit, usually it’s informal. Teachers, reading over your shoulder, asking clarifying questions, informally polling the class.
    Summative is end level, it’s the sum of the learning experience, and tends to be more formalized.

    The problem with assessment, and having prescribed methods for it, is that effective assessment is sometimes objective, varies from person to person and class to class. For example, Johnny is on a different reading level than Susan, so I assess him differently because his benchmark for achievement is different than Susan’s benchmarks. It’s less about teaching formalized methods of assessment and more about teaching tools and skills for how to assess, and then in your situation you do what’s best for you.

  2. Kristin says:

    Sorry that the class left you with such a sense of disappointment. Certainly, you can apply social science methodology to survey design, but I was aiming for us to have a conversation on a more practical level, and I’m sorry it didn’t feel helpful on your end. It sounds like you wanted more prescriptive suggestions, but the truth is that the questions you ask will depend on what scenario you are in, what the goals of your program are, what kind of class you are hosting, who your patrons are, how old they are, what the bosses are looking for, etc. Therefore, this is a case where your own professional needs are going to sway what you choose to do. Clearly, a research methods course (such as 643 is being revamped to be) would give you more formal methodology than is required by this course. Perhaps Beth Y could recommend some readings that would fill in the gaps you felt. Please let me know if you’d like me to ask her for some.

  3. Laura B says:

    Yes, Beth Yakel’s 623 is definitely providing the more formal, step-by-step approach to research methodology. I found it interesting that 643 and 623 overlapped a little last week–nice for me to have some aspects covered in 643 that we haven’t really touched on yet in 623 because we haven’t really started developing questions yet.

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